Did renovation weaken Victoria House pillars?
TPCL Packaging Limited had recently signed a five-year lease agreement for occupancy of ground floor of the building; while cops believe that renovation work had already started, officials of firm say it was yet to commence
In the second week of November, TPCL Packaging Limited entered into a five-year lease agreement for the 10,000 sq feet ground floor of Victoria House. Less than a month later, a slab collapsed in the building, killing two and injuring six others.
Cops investigating the case have reason to believe that renovation work was underway in the building, which weakened its foundations. Senior officers of the company however, claim that interior work hadn’t yet been started, and that they were in the stage of having talks with an architectural firm for it. The work was to be carried out by a civil contractor under the supervision of the team of architects.
“We were expanding our business and wanted a bigger office space to accommodate our 60-70 staff members. Renovation and shifting work would have been completed over the next few months. It is unfortunate that such an incident happened,” said a senior officer.
Senior Police Inspector Sudhakar J Ghagare of the N M Joshi Marg police station said, “Preliminary inquiries reveal that some renovation work was underway on the ground floor. As the building is over a hundred years old, we suspect that the load of the entire structure was being borne by certain pillars, which might have been weakened due to some pressure. However, a clearer picture will emerge once the investigation is completed.”
Meanwhile, the N M Joshi Marg police have registered a case against the owner of TPCL Packaging, Alfez Miller, who is the principle architect and director of the architectural firm ABM Architects Pvt Ltd, the civil contractor, and also the office administrator of JSW Steel and its IT head.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Central Region) Praveen Salunkhe said, “We are gathering evidence against those we have registered the case against. Statements will be recorded and those who are involved will be arrested thereafter.”
S G Nanavati, executive director of TPCL Packaging said, “Though the police have taken my details, I am yet to be called in for any questioning. The police are probing the matter and we will wait for the investigation to be completed.”
BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte said, “I have called for a detailed technical report from the chief engineer. I am expecting the report, and only after going through it will I be in a position to make any comment.”
BMC Chief Engineer Rajeev Kuknur said, “Our records show that no one approached us with any request for carrying out any interior or restoration work in the premises.”
The architect in charge of the project, Miller, could not be contacted. Meanwhile, most staff members at Victoria House, which is JSW’s registered office, have been shifted to other offices in Mumbai.