Mahim building collapse: Looking for life, death halted her at every stop

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Hayat Sopariwalla, 21, clutched on to her cellphone and hope as she frantically hopped from one hospital to another throughout Monday night after the four-storey Altaf Mansion in Mahim collapsed in a matter of minutes. Her biggest fear came true on Tuesday morning when the body of her brother Mubeen, 19, was fished out of the rubble.

As the toll from the tragic incident, the first this monsoon, rose to 10, Hayat had lost five of her family members, including her nieces Anam, 7, and Mariyam, 6. A resident of Bhendi Bazaar, Hayat was informed about the building collapse by a friend on Monday evening. Since then, every minute has been a struggle to get information about her loved ones.

Her father, chocolate manufacturer Aslam Lakha, 50, was watching TV in that portion of the building which did not collapse when his wife Farhana and son Mubeen suddenly disappeared in a mass of debris and a cloud of dust. Hayat’s grandmother Zaibunissa, 76, who was resting in the bedroom of the first-floor apartment, was the first casualty. She was brought dead to Bhabha Hospital in Bandra.

Four other family members — Mubeen, who was seated in front of a computer, Hayat’s cousin Zeba and nieces Anam and Mariyam, who had come over from their Mohammed Ali Road home — were missing.

“Zeba and the nieces were in one of the bedrooms when the building collapsed. Uncle (Aslam) was seated at the dining table and escaped unhurt,” said Nabeel, Hayat’s husband, who drove her to various hospitals, hoping to find her family members.

At Bhabha Hospital, Hayat got to know of her grandmother’s death. From there, they went to Sion’s Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General (LTMG) Hospital followed by Mahim’s SL Raheja Hospital. These were fruitless trips

Amid those tense moments, there was a glimmer of hope — relatives informed Hayat that her mother was rescued from the debris and was at a relative’s residence after receiving medical attention. “No, not yet,” Hayat told her mother in a choked voice after she repeatedly inquired about Mubeen during the night-long search.

A family member on Tuesday told dna that Farhana was very close to Mubeen. “Initially we told her we found him, but we had to tell her the truth this morning,” he said. Mubeen and Zeba’s bodies were removed from the debris on Tuesday morning and those of the nieces in the evening. Zeba’s father Amin, who was at a Xerox store nearby, had a close shave.

Post-mortem reports reveal that members of the Lakha family died on the spot after suffering severe head injuries. “It looks like a pillar with sharp edges may have fallen on their head,” said Dr Rajesh Dere, associate professor in Sion Hospital.

Hayat’s family is distraught. “We were positive that we would find them alive but...,” trailed off an emotional Nabeel. Farhana is in a state of shock.

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