AP building collapse kills 13

Structure housed a popular hotel; restaurant owner's son among dead

AP building collapse kills 13

Thirteen people were killed and 20 injured when a three-storey building, housing a popular hotel, came crumbling in Secunderabad on Monday morning.

The dead included the son of the hotel owner, Mustafa, and restaurant workers Santosh, Rajeev, Murali and Manoj. Most of the deceased were labourers and auto-rickshaw drivers who had come for their morning cup of tea.

The City Light Hotel, located on the busy Rashtrapathi Road, is a popular joint for aromatic Irani “chai” (tea), biryani and light snacks, besides Haleem during the holy month of Ramzan.

The 80-year-old building came crashing down at 6:45 am, taking all those inside by surprise, and within seconds, all that remained were mounds of debris, with dust rising all around. While some managed to escape, the officials believe that at least two persons may still be trapped inside.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel, city police, firemen and other rescue workers managed to evacuate about 20 people, of whom at least 15 were shifted to the state-run Gandhi General Hospital in Secunderabad. While 12 are still being treated in Gandhi Hospital, the condition of three of the injured remains critical.

One of the injured, Ramanajeneyulu, who is being treated at Gandhi Hospital, said: “We were under the stairway of the hotel and having tea when the roof suddenly came down. There was breathing space under the stairway and we escaped with injuries. Someone dragged us out.”

“We could also see fire breaking out in the kitchen," said Shankar, a daily wage worker who was inside the hotel.

One of the rescued hotel workers said there were 30 workers in the building at the time of the incident.

Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who visited the accident site and the hospital to inquire after the injured, ordered a departmental probe into the incident. He also directed officials to provide immediate relief to the injured.

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) Commissioner M T Krishna Babu, who supervised the rescue operations in the morning before CISF took over, said they had also sought the assistance of National Disaster Response Force for rescue operations.

While the residents in the area alleged that negligence on the part of municipal officials was the cause for the collapse, Krishna Babu, however, maintained that the building was not a dilapidated structure and was also not among the 57 buildings in Secunderabad which were issued demolition notices.

Stating that the building looked stable during the recent inspection, the GHMC official said, “The construction of a ‘bhatti’ (clay oven) for preparation of Haleem on the top floor of the building may have weakened the structure, but the exact reason will be known only after a probe.”

The municipal commissioner said a case would be filed against the hotel owner.

There were no concrete pillars to support the decades-old structure. Despite the structural weaknesses in the building, City Light was not among the buildings in the city that were recently issued notices on safety.

The City Planning Commissioner Raghu said that in future, all buildings over 60 years old will be given notice for renovation.Meanwhile, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party's President N Chandrababu Naidu, who also visited the accident site and Gandhi Hospital, said the tragedy reflected the failure of the Congress government on all fronts. He demanded a judicial inquiry into the collapse and an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the victims.

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