KARACHI: Over the years, the map of Liaquatabad and of other localities of Karachi grew in a triangular fashion. As the population soared, the size of houses decreased and the heights of buildings increased.
The vibrant town located in District Central was shaken up when a building collapsed on Tuesday, killing five people and injuring a dozen, including children. The authorities continued to remove the debris the following day and control the damage that had already been done.
Consoling his mother and other women clad in burqas, a resident, Zeeshan, sat staring at the debris of the multi-storey building in which they had a flat they considered home. He lost his 32-year-old brother, Faisal, and a seven-year-old nephew, Ayan, while his sister-in-law was in Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. The ill-fated family had rented a two-room flat for Rs10,000 per month in the building that collapsed.
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"A number of times the landlord was asked to repair the cracks appearing in the building but he ignored us," Zeeshan said, while sobbing. "We complained that it looked like the house was under the influence of spirits when the cement used to fall from the top." There was a leakage in the water tank above and had seepage on the walls, he added.
A crowd had converged at the site where the building collapsed. The police and city wardens busied themselves preventing people from crossing the safety perimeters around the building. Majority of the people were from the same neighbourhood andwere unhappy with the building control authorities and political parties.
"These people [political party representatives, elected people and the city administration] do their photo sessions every time an incident takes place and the media provides them this service," said Abdul Ghani, a middle-aged man who lives on the street next to the building and runs a grocery shop one block away.
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He offered to show the backyard of his house, the door of which opens into a narrow street that is known as Gandi Gali (dirty lane). The street is filled with blackish water running down in a stream and the stench of rotting vegetables and sewage. Heaps of used clothes, plastic bags, vegetable waste and baby diapers could be seen. Most of the houses open into Gandi Gali.
District administration staffers continue their work on the debris. The two adjoining buildings that were partially damaged by the collapse were evacuated and the residents were told that the buildings will be taken down too because of the damaged structure.
This perturbed the family of Yasir, a puncture mechanic, whose shop is located in the building on the right of the collapsed building and home in the building on the left. Both the buildings are partially damaged. "Where should we go? This is the only place we have and now the authorities want to snatch it from us," he said, adding that he will not go anywhere.
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Tanvir Baig, a relative of Yasir's, showed the damage caused to the house. The family claimed that their house was robbed during the initial rescue work. "We had just gotten Rs40,000 from the committee [a traditional practice of money pooling]. The money has been stolen, as well as the jewellery that was meant to be given as dowry to our younger sister who is getting married in six months," Baig said. "We opened our doors for the people to help with the rescue work, but this is what they have done to us," he lamented.
The work to remove the debris is still under way. The District Central deputy commissioner inspected the site, instructed his subordinates and spoke to the media.
While pointing to a five to six-storey building located just in front of the collapsed building, a resident, Rizwan, said he thought this building fell when he heard the bang. "But it was the other. This building was recently turned into a high-rise building on the structure of a decaying house," he explained.
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According to Rizwan, such houses are found at every street corner and nobody cares. "On one hand, there are government officials and on the other are political parties' workers who have such a notoriety that people avoid their interference," he commented, while putting his hand on a wall painted with an election campaign ad from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and looked up at the pole where Pakistan Peoples Party flags were recently mounted.