KOCHI — Authorities in southern Kerala state on Jan. 11 razed two luxury high-rise apartment buildings for violating environmental norms, in one of India’s largest demolition drives involving residential complexes.

The razing of the illegal apartments built very close to a posh lakeside in the state’s Maradu district took place after a court last year ordered their demolition for violating laws that prohibit construction within a certain distance from the sea, rivers, lakes or other water bodies.

The apartments were a pale shadow of their former luxurious appearance after demolition agencies chipped away at the buildings for two months, reducing them to a bare skeletal frame. The buildings came crashing down in seconds as a thick cloud of smoke spread to around 200 meters (yards).

Almost 2,000 people in nearby residential areas were evacuated prior to the demolition, which was witnessed by scores of people who recorded the event on their cellphones.

The remaining two buildings were demolished Jan. 12.

The court order last year had come as a shock to more than 300 apartment owners. When all legal options to halt demolition were exhausted, they resorted to protests and hunger strikes. Finally, when the administration snapped the power supply, they were forced to vacate their homes.

Hours before the demolition, some of the residents flocked to the site for one last view of their former homes.

Environmental experts have raised concerns that the demolition of the four structures will have a huge impact on Vembanadu Lake, which is an ecologically sensitive area.

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