Saturday, September 24, 2011

Five-storey house goes down

Gangtok, Sept. 24: A five-storey house belonging to Bhaichung Bhutia’s mentor and state sports secretary Karma P. Bhutia collapsed tonight after an adjoining six-storey building tilted and fell against it, injuring eight persons.

The incident occurred two days after The Telegraph reported how building norms were being flouted in a mountainous terrain that is under seismic zone IV, the second most vulnerable area in the country according to the India Meteorological Department that had drawn up the classification. In Gangtok, the height of buildings is restricted to five storeys.

Around 6.15pm, the six-storied building of the late Sonam Choda Lepcha, a minister in the Nar Bahadur Bhandari government, suddenly tilted and hit Karma’s house in the Baluakhani area of town. Karma’s house, a concrete structure, then came down as a pack of cards.

All but the two top floors of the building can be seen resting but that also in a tilted position at the road level. The floors below have been totally destroyed, police said.

Karma’s house had an ATM kiosk on the first floor which also had the office of Bhaichung’s United Sikkim Football Club. A club official present at the spot said the office was completely buried under rubble and all the cups and trophies were inside. “We are yet to assess the damage,” he said.

Bhutia’s driver in STNM
“Karma and his daughter, Rinzing were watching television while two carpenters were working when suddenly he saw the adjoining building begin to sway and start tilting to its left. Both of them managed to come out just in time. But two carpenters were trapped as was Bhutia’s driver,” the club official said. He said the late minister’s house had tilted after Sunday’s quake. Local people said yesterday’s tremor at 10.20pm followed by rain this evening must have done the final damage.

According to M.S. Tuli, the police superintendent of East Sikkim, seven persons, four from Sonam’s house and the same number from Karma’s house have been rescued. All those rescued from Karma’s house — his driver Sonam Bhutia, tenant O.P. Chhetri, and two carpenters from Jalpaiguri, Sujit Sarkar and Prasanta Sarkar — were admitted to the STNM Hospital.

Sonam’s family members had vacated the building after Sunday’s quake.

K.B. Guring, an assistant medical officer at the STNM Hospital, said all three had suffered head injuries but they “were stable.”

“The area has been cordoned off and rescue operations were carried out by the army, the fire brigade, the police and personnel of the civil defence. The rescue operations are over,” Tuli said. He said two vehicles parked between the two buildings were badly damaged.

Pradip Chhetri, a tenant in Sonam’s house, said when the building started tilting, he thought it was another earthquake. “It was raining heavily and I suddenly felt the house tilt to its left side and crash against the one next door. I managed to use ropes to clamber down on to the street,” Pradip said.

(The Telegraph)

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