In six seconds, two skyscrapers were reduced to rubble through controlled implosion in Kochi on Saturday in one of the largest demolition drives in the country for flouting Coastal Zone Regulation norms.
The first to knockdown was the H20 Holy Faith complex, a 19-floor building with 91 apartments, and after half an hour Alfa Serene with 67 houses on 17 floors was pulled down. Both flats are situated within a 500-metre radius. Thousands of people assembled in Maradu, in the suburbs of the port city, to witness what they called a “jaw-dropping spectacle”.
Other than a portion of the second complex slipping into flanking backwaters, no other damage was reported, officials said, adding, the successful operation was an engineering prowess. Two more apartment complexes, Jain Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram, will be demolished in a similar way on Sunday.
After a long litigation, the Supreme Court had ordered the demolition of these four flats last May. In September, it gave an ultimatum to the state government after summoning the chief secretary. In all, at least 800,000 square-feet area will be demolished in two days.
“It was a successful operation. Planned debri was contained in the building complex itself. In the second building (Alpha Serene), a small portion landed in the water body and that was intended to save other houses flanking the apartment,” said Ernakulam district collector S Suhas. “Everything went according to our plan. It was a foolproof operation,” said Utkarsh Mehta, managing director, Edifice Engineering, one of the firms involved in the demolition process.
Firemen used water cannons to control dust and fumes that enveloped the whole area of the Maradu complexes after both buildings came down. People were kept at least 200 metres away from the blast locations and Navy helicopters had an aerial view minutes before the blast. Alfa Serene was surrounded by at least 100 houses and saving them was a big task for officials.
“It was an ear-splitting explosion. In seconds the building came down like a pack of cards.We could not sleep for the last one month or so. We are happy that the blast did not leave any damage to our dwelling,” said Sindhu Benny, who owned a house adjacent to Alfa Serene.
Explosives were placed in 1,471 holes in the 70-metre high building H2O, officials of Edifice Engineering said. South Africa-based Jet Demolitions is the other big company involved in the demolition process. A special pooja invoking Lord Ganesha to remove all hurdles was held earlier in the morning to ensure smooth operation, said the companies involved in the operation.
Authorities had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to control the surge in the number of onlookers.
According to green activists, the demolitions will be a lesson for land encroachers who misuse water bodies and other natural resources. However, many fear the latest demolition drive will trigger a series of such actions.
According to experts, the last big demolition drive was in Chennai in 2016 when an 11-floor building was pulled down through controlled implosions. This is the first time such skyscrapers were pulled down through controlled implosions. At least 70,000 tonne of rubble will be there and it will take at least one month to clear the same. Some of the local residents will be allowed to return to their houses after the concrete waste was cleared.