Kerala keeps fingers crossed as flats razing date nears

Kerala keeps fingers crossed as flats razing date nears

A view of Alfa Serene Apartments at Marad built on the coastal zone, in Kochi, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (PTI photo)

With hardly 48 hours left for razing five luxury apartments at Kochi in Kerala, the state is keeping fingers crossed as it is said to be for the first time in India that an explosion of this scale is going to happen.

While the agencies engaged in the demolition of the 17 to 19-storey buildings through controlled explosion claim that dust would be the lone problem to be caused, the state government was making adequate precautions like cordoning off the entire areas, making it no-fly zone and clamping prohibitory orders for effective eviction of 2,000-odd people residing near the high-rises.

Over 1,000-kilogram explosives have been packed in the pillars and beams of the five high-rises and explosions would be triggered using detonators and timers. The pillars are being provided ten layer fencing using steel mesh and geo mats to prevent the debris from scattering too far. Experts involved in the work estimate that the debris would not go beyond 10 metres from the site. Explosions would be operated from around 100 metre from each site. The work is being supervised by agencies like Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation.

While 19-storey H2O Holy Faith and 17-storey twin towers of Alfa Serene, both on the banks of Nettoor canal would be demolished at 11 am and 11.05 am, respectively, on January 11, Jain's Coral Cove on the banks of Nettor Lake and Golden Kayaloram on the banks of Chambakkara canal will be demolished on January 12 at 11 am and 2 pm, respectively. All the apartments are located in a radius of around two kilometre.

Concerns prevail

Science activist V T Padamanabhan said that though razing down of buildings through explosions took place in the country earlier also, it could be for the first time that five comparatively new and taller towers were being razed down in around 24-hours time. Moreover, there was only around 300-metre distance between H2O Holy Faith and the twin towers of Alfa Serene. Hence, the impact of the explosions of three towers in a gap of five minutes pose a serious concern, he said.

Presence of a fuel pipeline of Indian Oil Corporation close to H2O Holy Faith also poses a major challenge. The pipeline is being emptied and covered with sandbags to ensure safety, said an IOC official.

The twin-towers of Alfa Serene posed serious safety threats to 30-odd houses close to it as cracks were developed in many houses during the initial demolition using jack-hammers. The nearby residents had been repeatedly urging that the twin towers should be demolished only after accessing the damage caused by the demolition of the other towers as the number of houses near it were quite low. A Rs 95-crore insurance coverage is being provided to the damages to be caused by the demolition of the five high-rises.

Since all the five towers are on the banks of water bodies, which are part of the Ramsar site Vembanad lake, environmentalists have also raised concerns on whether the debris will fall on the canals and cause pollution.

Eviction of nearby residents will begin from Friday afternoon. Already most of the residents staying close to apartments have been shifted to distant places and notices were issued that everyone staying nearby should vacate before 9 am on Saturday. Special camps would be opened to accommodate 2,000-odd people staying within the 200-metre radius of the building.

Kochi additional superintendent of police K P Philip stated that even as the explosion agencies claim that the impact would be felt only in 10 to 20 metres from the site, no people would be allowed within a 200-metre radius. Apart from clamping prohibitory orders, the area would be also made no-fly zone and even drones would not be allowed.

"We are making elaborate crowd control plans as people from other districts were also likely to throng in to view to the explosion. Traffic along all nearby roads, including the National Highway, would be restricted at the time of the explosions," he said.

While Vijay Steels and Explosives is entrusted with the demolition of twin towers of Alfa Serene, Edifice Engineering is entrusted with the demolition of the three other towers.

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