The death toll in the Thane building collapse on Friday mounted to 72 even as rescue operations were called off after 62 people were pulled out of the debris. Two builders — Jamil Qureshi and Salim Shaikh — of the 7-storey illegal structure were arrested.
“Builders Jamil Qureshi and Salim Shaikh were arrested from their hideouts today,” Thane Police Commissioner KP Raghuvanshi said on Saturday, adding they were being questioned.
Qureshi was nabbed from Uttar Pradesh, while Shaikh was apprehended from Thane, he said.
Police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the builders, who were on the run since the Thursday incident. If convicted they can face life sentence.
Rescue operations at Lucky Compound, where the fully occupied illegal structure stood near Shil Phata in Mumbra in Thane district adjoining Mumbai, were called off this afternoon, over 40 hours after the illegal structure crashed.
“Thane Crime Branch has taken over the investigation and those guilty will be punished,” Joint Commissioner Vipin Kumar Singh told reporters at the crash scene.
“Rescue operations have been called off. The death toll at present stands at 72 while 62 people have been pulled out alive,” he said.
According to the Regional Disaster Management Control (RDMC) sources, those dead include 22 women and 17 children.
Thirty-six people have been admitted to hospitals in Thane, Kalwa and Mumbra in Thane and JJ and Sion Hospitals in Mumbai.
Kumar said now an adjoining multi-storey structure, also constructed by the same builder illegally, was in the process of being pulled down.
RA Rajeev, Thane Municipal Commissioner, had on Friday gone on record to say that 90 per cent of buildings in Mumbra area where Shil Phata, the scene of Thursday’s tragedy is located, are illegal.
Alok Awasthi, Commandant of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which was rushed from Pune soon after the collapse, too confirmed that rescue efforts had been abandoned as there was no likelihood of presence of any bodies or survivors.
“We have explored the area eight feet underneath the plinth and we are reasonably sure that there is nobody there,” Awasthi, who led his team of 90 men who painstakingly rescued 62 people from the massive wreckage, said.
Describing the operation as “complicated”, Awasthi said because it was a “sandwich collapse” , with floor lying over floor, it was a daunting task to remove debris from each storey to look for survivors.
“We had to proceed very slowly as any mis-step would have pushed up the death toll,” he said.
The Government had on Friday suspended Thane Deputy Municipal Commissioner Deepak Chavan and Shil-Daighar Senior Police Inspector KP Naik for dereliction of duty and for allegedly colluding with the builders.
A separate probe by an Additional Chief Secretary officer has also been announced by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
(With inputs from agencies)