The crack that appeared in a section of the house late on Thursday evening forced the emergency evacuation post midnight.
Some 13 persons, including a 92-year-old, who resided in the affected portion were shifted to a nearby hotel at 1.30am. Altogether, 52 members of the Rashmoni clan live in the 48-room mansion.
“Engineers appointed by the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) have been surveying the house for nearly four months. Accordingly, parts of the building that were considered vulnerable to vibration caused by the underground tunnelling including architectural features like arches were supported by props. Till 6 in the evening on Thursday, the engineers had maintained everything was fine. Thereafter, a crack developed along an arch to the south-west of the courtyard. This crack wasn’t limited to the arch but scaled the wall to the first floor and on to the roof. We were alerted when a large chunk of plaster fell off the ceiling of my aunt’s room on the first floor,” recounted Prasun Hazra, a scion of the illustrious family.
The aunt — nonagenarian Praul Rani Hazra — was carried down to safety along with 12 others who resided in that section of the house. They were then driven to a hotel on Princep Street.
Meanwhile, a net was laid just below the ceiling to trap any other chunk that may come off the ceiling and prevent damage to old marble floor.
The crack itself has scaled 27 ft from the arch to the mansion roof. While the first floor is at a height of 5 ft from the ground, it’s ceiling is12 ft high. The second floor ceiling is higher still at15 ft.
News of the 5 mm-wide crack in the grade I heritage building drew concerns from far and wide. Among those who called to enquire about the mansion was writer Amit Chaudhuri, currently in Paris. “I heard cracks have developed that have run through the house that is a famous landmark,” said Chaudhuri who has spearheaded a movement to conserve architecturally prominent buildings in Kolkata’s neighbourhoods.
KMRC engineers said they would repair all cracks that have appeared in the building. “The spot where the cracks have appeared is 50m away from the tunnel alignment,” a KMRC engineer said.