Mumbai: Long past midnight, amid the grim atmosphere at the site where the four-storey building named Siddhi Sai Cooperative Housing Society once stood, people cheered and clapped every time the firemen pulled out someone alive from under the debris. But these instances reduced by the hour and the hopes of finding another person alive dwindled until the firemen pulled out 55-year-old Rajesh Doshi from under the debris around 1 am on Wednesday.
Despite the combined efforts of a team of 40 members from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and around 100 officials from the Fire Brigade who pulled out 28 people during the 31-hour-long rescue operation for the building which collapsed at 10.43 am on Tuesday, 17 lives could not be saved. The officials took the longest amount of time to bring out Doshi who called his son from under the debris to cry out for help. “Doshi called his son Darshan around 4 pm but we only heard about it at around 5 pm and we spent several hours trying to create a cavity and bring him out safely. A slab had collapsed on his leg and he was unable to move much. But we ensured that he continues to talk to his family so that he gets the strength to hold on,” said R Chaudhary, deputy fire officer at the site.
Beating all odds, Doshi survived with a fracture on his left leg and a few minor scratches on his arms after spending 15 hours under the debris. As the firemen finally pulled him out with the help of ropes after hours of carefully creating a passage for him, he thanked the firemen with joined hands.
His family had informed the fire officials that Doshi was a diabetic and the doctors at the site ensured that the risk of contracting an infection is minimal. “We gave him water and biscuits to make sure that he stays well hydrated. The doctors administered a dose of painkiller and medication to counter any possible infections from cuts and bruises,” said another fire official.
While everyone involved in the rescue mission was relieved that there was no rainfall that would have dampened the debris and made it difficult for people trapped beneath to breathe, fire officials said their efforts were slowed down due to the interference of the locals. “People kept climbing on the JCB and trying to crowd around the area when we were trying to locate the victims. We even approached the local police who were at the site to help cordon off the area as they are supposed to. But they didn’t help and even though we were asking people to stay away, they wouldn’t listen to us,” said one of the fire officials who was present at the site.
After bringing Doshi out and putting him in an ambulance, the officials turned their attention to another pile of the debris where three people were suspected to be alive. While a few fire officials at the site said they had hoped that they would be alive, all three of them were dead by the time they were removed from under the debris. The three, of the same family, have been identified as Samudra Deora (77), Vijay Deora (52) and Bina Deora (46). Their bodies were removed from the same area around 4.30 am on Wednesday.
The firemen continued to comb through the debris since they did not have an exact count of people who may have been trapped beneath the debris. “We have to keep digging until the debris is removed. The rescue operation continues till then,” said Panigrahi. The search operation was finally concluded at 5.24 am on Wednesday.