Hope of finding kin fades under collapsed building

By Prathiba Raju, IANS
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - In the space of a second, Biswajit Ghosh’s life came crashing down. His wife, son and daughter were buried under tonnes of concrete of the collapsed building in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar.

But Ghosh, a sales person who hails from West Bengal, did not let his personal tragedy overtake him. He joined in the rescue operations, and with every survivor brought up from the rubble, he hoped against hope it was one of his family.

Ghosh’s family members are among the 30 feared buried Monday night in the rubble of a five-storeyed building in Lalita Park area of Laxmi Nagar. He was coming home after work when he saw the building come crashing down at about 8.15 p.m.

Speaking to IANS, Ghosh said: “The entire building collapsed within seconds as if it was made of sand. I ran toward the rubble, but for ten minutes I stood still. After hearing the cries of people from various sides, I tried to search for my wife and children. Every rescue I managed was anyone but my family member, I’m yet to see my loved ones.”

Using a large hammer to break a slab of concrete, Ghosh said he tried to reach to his family members among the survivors and the buried. He also searched for his family members in the hospital too, but they were not there.

“I have lost all hope that they will be alive, but I want to see them at least once,” he mumbled sadly.

Forty-four-year-old Anil Kumar calls himself lucky. His family had gone to their village in Azam Nagar, Bihar, to celebrate Chhath puja and he was at a nearby shop for chai, when the accident occurred.

“Initially, I thought it was an earthquake, but later when I heard the loud cries I ran towards my house and saw the whole building coming down in a heap of rubble, with dust engulfing the place,” Kumar told IANS.

He said that local people began the rescue work and the police and Delhi Fire Service (DFS) arrived after half an hour.

Shankar Varma, a local who saved three children, said: “Many of us rushed to the spot and we cleared the rubble with our bare hands. It was difficult and we tried to rescue as many as possible.”

Although the rescue operation is still on, many have lost hope of finding their loved ones alive under the rubble nearly 24 hours after the crash.

“My son, daughter-in-law, my husband and one grandson are all dead. They were all inside the building when it collapsed,” said 55-year old Manoti, who was trying to feed her two grandchildren who escaped the mishap.

“The children are not aware that their parents are no more. I don’t know what is left for me to survive and how I will feed the children,” she said.

Local residents said they heard survivors cry for help from under the debris Monday night, but by Tuesday the sounds were becoming fainter. By evening, all was silent from under the rubble, and even the desperate mobile phone rings for help had stopped.

Jamuna Devi lost her 15-year-old son who was standing outside the building when it collapsed. “He was standing outside with some friends. When the building first fell, we thought it was an earthquake,” she said.

The stunned mother pleaded that someone should save her son. “He spoke to my other son on his mobile phone last night. He was crying and saying that he was still trapped inside,” Jamuna Devi told IANS.

Since morning, however, the phone has been switched off.

(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at prathiba.r@ians.in)

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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