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Three-storey building collapses in Karachi’s Malir: 40 trapped, 3 dead

SAMAA | , , , and - Posted: Feb 25, 2019 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Posted: Feb 25, 2019 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Five people have been rescued

A three-storey building collapsed in the Jafar Tayyar Society in Karachi's Malir 7:30am Monday. So far, three bodies have been pulled out of the rubble. 

Between 35 and 40 people were trapped under the rubble and as of 12pm, five people have been rescued, including a woman and a child. Rescue teams are at the scene but the lanes around the building are too narrow for the heavy machinery needed to lift the debris to pass through. Residents of the area are pulling people out from under the rubble themselves.

At 10am, a single heavy machine (an excavator) arrived to clear the rubble. It is being reported that people can hear children crying under the rubble.

Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani arrived at the scene two and a half hours after the building collapsed. He said they are trying to move bystanders away so that the rescue teams can work.

The three people rescued from the rubble have been taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. There were four families living in the building.

Related: Fire breaks out in residential building in Karachi’s DHA

The three-storey building was constructed on 96 square yards of land and questions are being raised on whether this was legal. The authority is responsible for approving building plans and had to approve the plan for this building before it was constructed.

The Sindh Building Control Authority now says that the responsibility for the building collapse lies on the shoulders of the owner. According to the initial report, a column for the building was being installed incorrectly. It had given permission for the construction of a ground plus two building and the construction within the building was unsafe, it said.

The police, Rangers and rescue teams are at the site but so far no heavy machinery has been able to reach the scene. The Karachi deputy commissioner is working to bring in small machines to help clear the rubble. Without machines, the massive pieces of rubble cannot be lifted and the people trapped beneath cannot be rescued.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken notice of the incident and directed the Karachi commissioner to supervise the rescue work. He has also summoned a report on how the building collapsed.

Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani told SAMAA TV that the lanes in the area are extremely narrow, making it impossible for the heavy machinery to get to the building collapse site. Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar told SAMAA TV that they are trying to use the resources they have to rescue people.

Related: SBCA to demolish Karachi’s commercial buildings built on residential plots in three days

An eyewitness told SAMAA TV that the families living in the building all rented their apartments.

Nooruddin Ahmed from the Institute of Engineers of Pakistan told SAMAA Digital that the SBCA is responsible for approving and monitoring the construction of all buildings in the city. Qualified and registered architects are supposed to submit the building plans to the SBCA, which will then check them to make sure they’re according to the area’s master plan, he explained.

The master plan has accounted for things like road width, height of buildings and many other specifications, he said. That’s what the SBCA is there to look out for, he said. It has to make sure the roads are wide enough for rescue vehicles, like fire trucks and heavy machinery. In this situation, the roads are not wide enough for rescue vehicles to pass through, he said.

Ahmed explained that often what happens is that architects and engineers leave less space for lanes in order to cram more buildings into an area. But this is what the SBCA’s job is, making sure that this doesn’t happen, he said.

There could be multiple reasons why the building in Malir collapsed, explained the engineer, but one possibility is weak construction. Before you build a building you have to conduct a soil test to make sure it can bear the load of the building you plan to construct there, he said.

Related: SBCA knocks down newly-constructed buildings in Karachi’s Nazimabad

One important point he raised is that unless there is an earthquake, you always have sufficient warning before a building’s collapse. Cracks form in the walls and there are noises that can be heard, said Ahmed. It is possible that the residents and owners of the building ignored these warnings or added more floors than the soil could bear, he said.

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