KARACHI: Four more bodies were recovered from under the debris of the building that collapsed in Lyari a few days ago, following which the death toll from the incident climbed to 13 on Tuesday.
On Sunday, a multi-storey building collapsed in the metropolis after which a rescue operation began in the area to recover bodies and shift the wounded to the hospital for treatment.
The rescue operation is underway for the third consecutive day during which bodies of three women were pulled out from under the rubble.
So far 13 bodies, which include those of four women, have been recovered from the wreckage. A man was rescued alive from the rubble after 24 hours only to succumb to his injuries at the hospital.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed regret over the loss of precious lives in the incident.
“I am with the affected families, we will not leave them alone in these difficult times,” Bilawal said, extending his support and adding that concrete steps should be taken to prevent such accidents in the future.
8-10 families were living inside
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Pakistan Army’s rescue team was sent to the incident site and security forces at the site were rescuing and evacuating people in the operation. Engineers with specialised equipment were also sent to clear the debris and evacuate those trapped inside, it added.
Sindh Rangers said their teams, as well as those of the Army, were on site of the collapsed building. A heavy contingent of Rangers was present in the affected area, they added, noting that nearby buildings had also being evacuated, they said.
The five-storey building, located in Liaquat Colony of Lyari, had more than 40 apartments and a penthouse on the top floor. The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) had declared it as dangerous and unstable more than two months ago.
The superintendent of police (SP) for Lyari said initial reports confirmed at least eight to 10 families were living in the building.
Deputy inspector-general (DIG) of police for the South district, Sharjil Karim Kharal, told media that two months ago, authorities had asked for the building to be vacated.
Kharal said the building housed about 200 people before it was vacated. He explained that while many families living in the building had already been evacuated, “we have been informed that the families living on two floors had not vacated”.
It was too early to say how many people were in the building at the time of the accident, he said, while SSP City District Muqaddas Haider said it was it would be premature to comment on how many more people were still buried in the rubble.
Sindh governor takes notice
Taking notice of the incident, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail sought a report from Commissioner Karachi and the SBCA, directing the latter to immediately initiate rescue operations.
“Immediate steps should be taken to evacuate those trapped under the building [debris],” Ismail said.
Sindh minister for municipalities, too, has immediately summoned a report from Commissioner Karachi and SBCA Director-General Dr Nasim-ul-Ghani Sahito.
Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said he had advised that rescue efforts be made effective and coordinated in every way. Heavy machinery to help remove rubble and assist in relief operations was to be sent as soon as possible, he said.
Speaking to media, Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said the building was already in disrepair and that its residents had been advised to evacuate. It was too early to say how many people were buried under the rubble, he added.
MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said rescue workers must immediately ensure the safety of human lives. The lawmaker added he was praying for the recovery of those injured in the accident.
Building started tilting in evening
Residents of the locality say no homes in the building were vacant.
Bricks and pieces of the building had been falling since evening, they said, adding that the structure tilted before suddenly collapsing.
Sources said the residents had been given notices when the building became dilapidated. While many families had already vacated their flats, several more left when another crack appeared in the building Sunday morning.
An eyewitness in the Nayabad locality said the building had started swaying earlier in the day, around 3pm, and that it had felt like it was an earthquake. People living in the building began to vacate their flats, the eyewitness added, noting that some of them could not retrieve their belongings in the hurry to leave.
The building finally collapsed around 8:30pm, the eyewitness mentioned, noting that there were 60 to 65 flats in it and there was a possibility that 40-45 people could be under the debris.
Building declared dangerous on March 18
According to a document from the SBCA, the ground-plus-five storey residential building was declared dangerous and unstable back on March 18.
Its residents, as well as the owners of all the flats, had been given notice that the building was damaged and were instructed to evacuate within 15 days.
The SBCA had also written letters to relevant authorities to disconnect the electricity, gas, and water supplies.