Hope springs eternal at Chennai collapse site

Last Updated 29 June 2014, 19:32 IST

It was jubilation among rescue workers on Sunday noon when a woman, who was trapped under the debris of the building,  walked out without even a minor injury.

Sunitha, a labourer from near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, was stuck under the rubble for more than 18 hours before she was rescued unhurt by Fire Service personnel.

When the rescue workers pulled Sunitha from the pit, she looked dead, with mud all over her. However, a few seconds after she came out, Sunitha had the courage to refuse even a stretcher and walked to a nearby team of doctors for first aid. “I am alright. Nothing to worry,” she told the doctors in Telugu.

In another instance, fire service personnel rescued a 50-year-old man trapped for more than 20 hours beneath the wreckage, his leg crushed by a part of a wall.  Rescuers reached him and lifted up the slab of cement using a specialised compressed air-pressure bag, and the man was rushed to hospital immediately.

“We were able to save him, but he may lose his leg,” said a rescue official. “We are continuously finding more signs of life,” he added. However, it was tragedy for Uma Shankar, whose wife's body was pulled out from the debris. 

Both Shankar and his wife were working as construction labourers for the past year, since the housing project started.

Hundreds of frantic relatives kept up vigil at the site of the collapsed building that killed more than 10 people, as the search for survivors is expected to continue for two more days.  “I am still waiting see my nephew, who got stuck in the building. I pray to god that he is alive,” said Promoth, tearfully watching the rescue efforts.

Meanwhile, as night approached, the electricity supply to the area was cut off to stem the risk of fire.  However, this meant that the rescue workers had to work under emergency floodlights powered by generators.

Interestingly, people are pitching in with rescue efforts in whatever way they can. Siva Kumar, owner of a fast-food restaurant few hundred metres away from the mishap site, was busy with his employees handing out drinking water and biscuits to the relatives. He said many construction workers from the site used to be patrons of his eatery. 

(Published 29 June 2014, 19:32 IST)

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