Thirty-five-year-old Hassan came home drenched after a long day of work. As he walked in, all his family members had gathered in the hall. After chatting with them briefly, he entered his room to change his clothes. All of a sudden, the family heard a loud noise accompanied by wailing. The family immediately rushed out, just in the nick of time, as their house came crumbling down behind them. Large boulders had fallen on the asbestos sheet that covered the roof, bringing the whole place down. While Hassan’s family managed to escape with their lives, the accident killed eight residents including a 19-day-old baby. One person suffered grievous injuries.
On Tuesday evening at around 8.30 pm, four houses adjoining each other in Hyderabad’s Ghouse Nagar -- a crammed colony accommodating working class people--were destroyed after a huge compound wall erected behind these houses atop a hillock came down due to heavy rain. The colony is located in the interiors of Bandlaguda.
“Everything happened in a matter of a few seconds. If we had made any misjudgement or remained frozen in panic, we too would have died under the rubble,” recalls Hassan’s mother Madina Bi. Like most families in the locality, Hassan lives in a joint family with eight members and two children. While everyone made it out safely before the house collapsed, 10-month-old Zayeda Begum, Hassan’s niece, was nearly trapped inside. But before the house collapsed, family members managed to save her. “Luckily, she did not sustain any injuries,” Madina narrates.
Though the family feels fortunate to come out alive, the uncertainty about how to live without a roof and how to get compensation for the damaged property, has pushed them into a state of depression. “We do labour work. After saving a small amount, we had constructed this house. Now who will compensate us for this loss?” Hassan asks. “While some leaders visited us and provided us food. We want to know about what arrangements they will provide us regarding shelter?”
In Ghouse Nagar, there are 12 houses adjoining the compound which is under construction. All the houses are now being vacated, as they have developed cracks, and there is a possibility of the other portions of the wall collapsing.
Photo of the partially collapsed compound wall
Mohammed Nawaz, who lost five of his family members, has filed a complaint against the property owner who had erected the compound wall. Nawaz alleged that the quality of the wall was substandard and his negligence claimed eight lives. The affected residents demand criminal action against the property owner. “The compound was built just a year ago, and the structure’s quality is very poor. So many people wouldn’t have died, if the construction quality was superior,” alleges Hassan. Speaking to TNM, Chandrayangutta police said that they are verifying the complaint before taking any action.
While police had offered a temporary shelter at a nearby government school for the affected residents, some have shifted to their relatives’ place. Abdur Razzak, a resident, whose house developed cracks, rented another place by Wednesday noon after paying half the advance money. “What else can we do? There’s nobody to help us. We built this house by spending around Rs 5 lakh. And now, like any tenant I have to worry about paying rent every month,” he sighs. Razzak urges the government to provide fair compensation.