Days have become longer in the familiar Kachi Bowli street for 15 families ever since a savage blaze in a nearby building rendered them homeless a week ago.
Forced to live in tents, they are coping with the cold and buzzing mosquitoes that swarm the area at night.
One among them is B Pavan, an 18-year-old student of a prestigious Hyderabad college. He is looking forward to a refreshing wash and a fresh pair of clothes.
“It has been a week since the fire. Seven days since my house was locked. All the clothes I brought with me have been used and soiled, and I have no place to wash them,” a dejected Pavan told South First.
It was a manic Thursday, 19 January to be precise, when a fire broke out in the six-storey commercial building, Deccan Corporations, on Minister’s Road, Nallagutta, at Ramgopalpet in Secunderabad.
The inferno and its aftermath
The building was gutted, but the fire that raged for around 24 hours damaged the houses in the immediate neighbourhood.
With the gutted building posing a threat to other structures, residents are now forced to live in the same familiar street like refugees.
Some of them — including women — have found shelter with friends or relatives. Others, mostly men, stay in the street, cordoned off by the police. But they all do one thing in common.
“We visit the colony to know the status,” S Sandeep, 25, told South First. They want to know if they could return.
“We take a bath on alternate days at other people’s houses. But at night, there are lots of mosquitoes here,” a man complained.
Parents have moved their small children either to paternal or maternal grandparents’ houses.
“They have school but we felt it would not be right for them to live here in this situation,” several mothers repeated.
The livelihood of several residents in the lower middle-class group neighbourhood, too, has been affected.
Pointing to a group, a woman told South First: “Many of us operate ration, milk or laundry shops from our houses. They have all been closed as we are not allowed to enter our homes. We are losing out financially.”
Residents said several of them have not been able to go to their workplaces.
“The tension is not letting anyone focus. We are worried that if this building collapses it would affect our houses constructed with hard-earned money,” a grim-looking resident said.
Health camps and meals
After several seniors complained of incessant cough, high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments due to heavy smoke, a health checkup is being organised daily.
“It is to ensure that they do not have any lung infection or other medical issues. Doctors from the nearby government-run Urban Primary Health Centre are conducting the daily camp,” Secunderabad Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) Shailaja B told South First.
She added the Revenue Department is distributing meals three times based on the Collector’s order.
“We are bored of eating the same food (uttapam, rice, curry, etc.) daily. There is no non-veg food. Even the drinking water they provide is not of good quality,” several youngsters complained.
The residents are desperate to return to their houses. They want the authorities to demolish the gutted building at the earliest.
“While demolishing the government should ensure that our houses are not further damaged. MLA sir (Talasani Srinivas Yadav) assured us that if it happens, he will compensate for it,” B Aravind told South First.
However, there has been no communication from the authorities regarding the compensation for the damages the houses have suffered.
Meanwhile, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has, reportedly, been asked to conduct Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) before tearing down the multi-storey building.
Authorities have ruled out implosion technology to pull down the building as it is situated in a densely populated commercial area.
(The names of the affected people have been changed on request).