CHENNAI: It was only time and a quirk of fate that made the difference between life and death for residents of the three houses that adjoin the doomed 11-storey edifice. The building chose the least occupied one to fall on.
A distance of barely 10 metres is all that separated the house of Geeta Kumar, which saw most of its rear portion flattened by the falling rubble, and Ramaiah’s house, which had two families and 10 people inside the building at the time of the collapse.
Geeta’s house on the other hand, normally filled with the tenants of the six portions that comprise the two-storey building was mostly empty since most of the residents were out for work.
“There are normally at least 20 people in the house. If the building had fallen just one hour later, it would have been horrible to imagine,” said Geeta with tears in her eyes. As it was, there was one person who was trapped inside the building.
Ganesan, who had gone to sleep after coming back from an outstation trip, according to Geeta, was still inside his ground floor portion when it was flattened by the rubble. Ganesan’s condition remains uncertain. Ganesan’s wife and toddler who were also inside the house, escaped getting buried with him.
Ramaiah’s house on the other hand, was occupied by more than 10 people, both Ganesan’s family on the ground floor and the tenant family on the first. “My daughter was inside the kitchen making coffee. We were all inside the house in the hall and the verandah when there was a roaring sound and the house shook. Immediately after, there was a cloud of dust inside the house,” narrated Ramaiah. “It was like an earthquake.”
Immediately afterward, the families rushed out to find that the huge 11-storey building that adjoined their house had crashed and tons of rubble had missed their house by less than 10 metres. “We are still recovering from the shock. When I came out, we could hear screams and shouts. And the house next to ours looked like a scene out of a disaster in a film,” said Ramaiah. The house on the other side of Geeta’s was also unoccupied at the time.