Thursday, August 4, 2011

KARACHI: At least six people were killed, 15 others injured and dozens feared trapped when a dilapidated five-storey residential building collapsed in the congested area of Lyari here on Thursday morning.

As the rescue operation led by the Army Corps of Engineers continued late into the night, the collapse of Qasr-e-Ruqqaiya situated in Moosa Lane, Baghdadi, resulted in the death of six-year-old Areesha, her brother 22-year-old Bilal along with 25-year-old Imran and an elderly woman, Hawa Bai. The bodies of two other women were recovered late at night.

More deaths were feared as hordes of spectators in the narrow and congested lanes, and a slow response from the government in providing equipment and services, delayed the rescue work.

As day turned into night, the voices calling for help inside the rubble eventually fell silent, lessening the chance of finding survivors amongst the 40 to 50 people said to be trapped inside the debris. The injured taken to the Civil Hospital for treatment include a six-month-old baby, Muskan. Among the injured are four children — Adil, Areeba, Kiran and Komal — of a resident, Abdul Ghaffar, whose other two children died in the building collapse. Others who were injured include Aliya Riaz, Kulsoom Yousuf, Amina Iqbal, Imran Yousuf, Sumaira Imran, Parween, Abdul Ghaffar, Bilquis Altaf, Bilquis Hanif and Shayan Altaf.

All day long at the site, the family members of those trapped inside stood watching the rescue operation; some emotional, others numb as they waited for their loved ones to come out alive. “My daughter is inside. Remove the rocks,” shouted Haji Abdul Razzak, whose newly-married daughter, Anum, was trapped in the debris along with her in-laws. His wife stood in disbelief. “Just minutes before the building went down, I spoke to her on the phone and she asked me what to cook. I can’t believe she is inside.”

Meanwhile, a mosque in the same lane sheltered the affected families and provided them with Iftari. Inside, a burqa-clad Afshan cried for her mother. “I am very worried. My mother and my sister-in-law are inside. They live on the fifth floor. Please save them,” she pleaded. CPLC chief Ahmed Chinoy, who was present at the site, said that there were 22 families living in the building. He said that since three storeys of the building had been buried under the weight of the rubble of the top floors, the rescue teams were having difficulty in reaching parts of the destroyed structure.

However, what was seen for several hours was only volunteers, the affected families and neighbours who put their lives at stake and tried to remove the heavy boulders themselves. It was only late in the evening that Army officials along with their equipment reached the spot.

Meanwhile, the cause of the collapse is yet to be determined. The DG South said that the structure of the building was weak, which resulted in its collapse. However, DSP Baghdadi Pervaiz Iqbal said that the complex, which was built in 1968, collapsed as a broken sewerage pipe weakened its pillars.

After the collapse of the building, its other namesake portion along with the neighbouring building, Ameena Tahir building, were vacated, and its residents moved to safer places.

Officials told The News that the Ameena Tahir building could fall any moment as cracks had appeared in it. “See the roof. One portion has been completely blown off,” said a resident from this building who hurried to salvage his belongings.

Locals complained that buildings tumbling down in this locality were common as, only two years ago, a building in Lea Market had collapsed, resulting in the death of over 20 people, and a number of buildings had been declared dangerous there.


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