Spared by death, they grieve for the young

Inconsolable:The bodies recovered from the tank. DH PhotosSorrow stalked the corridors of ‘Doddaspatre’, or the K R Hospital in Mysore, as the evening progressed. Anxious relatives and friends had gathered around the K R Hospital, hoping against hope that some miracle may have saved their kith and kin. But, that was not to be.

The white-washed casualty section of the hospital reeked of death like never before.

Women and children, dressed in their best silks and adorned in the best of gold ornaments, were wheeled in as corpses. Their bodies were soaked in polluted water while lungs and stomach brimmed with it, even as doctors rushed around to remove it.

Some bodies were still tender, not stiffened yet by death, heels still pale yellow, giving a faint hope to the relatives, of being alive. Rani, barely into her teens, lay dead on the stretcher, eyes half open, mehandi-adorned hands clutching onto her necklace Froth and body fluids mixed with blood oozed from her mouth.

Survivors

Bettamma and Jayamma, both in their seventies, survived with minor injuries, but were in a state of shock.

According to Jayamma, who was struggling to come to terms with what happened to her younger relatives, and her wet saree which was soaking the bed, turning her cold.

“I don’t know how we made it, and even why we made it. It should have been the children instead of us, who should have been saved...” she said, breaking into tears every now and then. Her memory still hazy, Jayamma said when death came calling, it was rather silent.

“Nobody screamed or shouted...we sat there chatting and suddenly there was water everywhere and the vehicle turned upside down. We barely had the time to react. I managed to stay afloat, till help came in the form of a rope. I caught hold of it and someone pulled me aside,” she said in choked voice.

Veena and Bharati, both in mid-30’s, were too shocked to speak, recollecting the tragedy in snatches. They too had managed to stay afloat till help came, after swallowing lots of polluted water.

A shocked Bharati had managed to hold onto the taamboola (betel leaves and areca) and kept it by her pillow, even as an oxygen mask helped her breathe. Veena flitted in and out of consciousness, sometimes crying out in agony.

It was a close call for them. They survived. A few feet away, in the same building, post mortem of the bodies of their relatives was being conducted.

It was an accident waiting to happen

Undabattinakere, located near Kadakola on Nanjangud Road 12 km from here, is full throughout the year. The tank is said to be 30-40 feet deep. Recently, the tank had reached its brim after copious rains in the surrounding areas.

The seepage from the Varuna Canal also flows into the tank, which comes under Devalapura Gram Panchayat limits.

The tank located just beside the highway has no protector railings, only yard-long vertical stone slabs planted every few metres or so. The authorities have put up no warning boards near the tank.

In 1957, then MLA of Nanjangud, P Mahadevaiah and his son, had drowned in the tank after their car fell into it.

According to a survey, more than 30,000 vehicles ply on this highway daily.

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