Mumbai building collapse: Father struggles with paperwork to send sons’ bodies to UP village

Tabassum Barnagarwala
Arbaz and Shehzad succumbed to asphyxiation and trauma wounds.

On Wednesday, 28-year-old Raseed Idrisy said he has no time to grieve for his two minor sons, who died as a portion of the Kesarbai Mansion in Dongri collapsed a day ago. Grief-struck, sleep-deprived and hungry, Idrisy, a worker, had to get the names of his sons Arbaaz (7) and Shehzad (8) rectified on their death certificates, look after his injured wife, Alema Bano (28), at JJ hospital, arrange for coffins, cooperate with the police investigation and raise Rs 50,000 to transport the bodies to their native village near Lucknow.

Alema and her sons were trapped under a staircase of the building for 18 hours before they were extricated around 5 am on Wednesday. While the woman suffered multiple injuries, her sons succumbed to asphyxiation and trauma wounds. Rescue workers also recovered the body of Isar Ahmed Masuri (54) around 8 am, almost 21 hours after the crash, taking the toll to 13.

Soon after the ground-plus-three-storey building collapsed on Tuesday, Idrisy had rushed from a nearby godown to JJ hospital s casualty ward, waiting for some news of his family. On Tuesday night, he stationed himself at the collapse site. It was early Wednesday morning when they heard Alema s feeble voice she kept calling Idrisy.

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When the building had collapsed, Alema had rushed towards the staircase with Shehzad by her side and Arbaaz in arms. Soon, the 28-year-old found herself trapped in chest-deep debris and was unable to see her sons, who managed to hold on to her. As a boulder hit one of her hands and falling debris hit her head, Alema lost contact with both the boys. I kept shouting, but no one heard me. I could hear everyone above. I felt my son collapse in my arms, she said, from a JJ hospital cot in ward 11 on Wednesday.

Relatives break down outside JJ hospital. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

The family had shifted to Mumbai just two months ago to treat Alema for kidney stones. Arbaaz, in Class I, and Shehzad in Class II, had left school to accompany their parents. I didn t know the building was in poor shape or there were talks of redevelopment going on. The broker never told us, Idrisy told The Indian Express.

Alema and both the children sons were supposed to return to their village in Uttar Pradesh this weekend. In her hospital bed, Alema wept profusely, cursing herself for ever having come to Mumbai. Idrisy, meanwhile, stilled himself as he prepared for a long journey to take the boys back to their village in Uttar Pradesh. The family wants the children to be buried in their village, Mohd Shamim, Idrisy s friend, said.

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After the bodies of the boys were brought to JJ hospital morgue on Wednesday morning, Idrisy had first gone to record his statement with the police. Then he began calling his friends for money to buy coffins and flight tickets. Two people would travel with the bodies. By noon, a private agent had pegged the charge for embalming the bodies to preserve them for the flight at Rs 18,000. An hour later, a government doctor assured Idrisy that the hospital will do it for free.

Alema recovering at a Mumbai hospital.

A Mumbai-Lucknow direct flight at 7.25 pm was finalised. However, around 3 pm, a travel agent pointed out that middle names of both the children were spelled wrong on their death certificates and that the airlines may refuse to accommodate the bodies in the cargo if their identities were not confirmed – Idrisy s name was spelt Rashid on his sons death certificates, but his Aadhaar card identifies him as Mohd Raseed .

What followed was frantic calls to the police and the airlines. I only have an Aadhaar card left. All other documents have gone missing after the building collapsed. There is no identity proof of my children left, Idrisy cried.

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Rescue workers at the site of the building collapse in Dongri, Mumbai, on Tuesday. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Around 3.45 pm, a police official from Dongri visited the morgue to rectify the names. Spelling mistakes are common during a disaster, he said. Later, a forensic department doctor made necessary changes on the medical papers. Idrisy managed to hire an ambulance to travel to the airport around 4.30 pm. The total cost of flight and to transport bodies in cargo is Rs 50,000. We had to borrow money from whoever we knew, his friend Virendra Gupta said.

A sleep-deprived Idrisy decided to stay back with Alema, while his elder brother flew with the bodies of his children to Lucknow, from where a car would take them straight to their native village where the last rights would be performed.

The children were so excited to see Mumbai when we got here. I should never brought them here, Idrisy