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Apathy compounds tragedy

delhi Updated: Nov 17, 2010 23:45 IST
Vijaita Singh
Vijaita Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

After the tragedy comes the wait to claim victims' bodies. For 21 families from Bihar, there seems to be no end to the woes that the Laxmi Nagar building collapse has brought in its wake.

The wait to see the bodies of their loved ones or to ensure a decent burial for them is only getting longer. Since Wednesday was a national holiday, on the occasion of Eid-al-Adha, most of the staff at the Lok Nayak hospital was on leave.

The embalming of bodies, that was to be done on Wednesday, could not be completed and they could not be sent back for cremation to Bihar.

"We have been told that the bodies cannot be released as the embalming has not been done. The staff is on leave for Eid-al-Adha," said Mohammad Babul, who was making arrangements to send the bodies back to Bihar's Katihar district.

Bodies of the 21 victims have been preserved at the Lok Nayak hospital mortuary and authorities have booked the Sampark Kranti Express on Thursday night to send them home.

"Earlier, the bodies were to be released on Tuesday. Now I have to spend the night at the community hall at Laxmi Nagar," said Mohammad Akbar, who waited to claim his son's body.

Survivors packed like sardines
With their homes gone, survivors are living in filthy conditions at the community hall in Laxmi Nagar - their shelter for the time being. Residents of 38 buildings in the nearby areas - evacuated from there as they fell under the 'dangerous' category - are also forced to share the same roof.

"There is no one here to take care of us; there is no food or other basic supply. We are depending on the little money we had saved. Even dead bodies are being brought here," said Jiten Haldar, who was evacuated from a building in the area.

Rain takes away what little they had
The sudden downpour on Wednesday ensured that the makeshift tents that residents had erected were wiped away. "We had erected this tent on the roadside. Now, even that is gone. Fate is playing a cruel game with us. First, we lost our home and now this tent," said Shankar Lal, a rickshaw puller.

A grandmother's woes
Jamuna Haldar, 67, has no one to take care of her three grandchildren now. Haldar lost her husband, son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. Her three grandchildren survived as they were playing in the nearby park. "I have lost all my family members. Who will take care of these three young children now? How will I support them?" she wonders.

"We were their only contacts here. If we don't help them, who would?" asked Ramesh Yadav, another Good Samaritan.

Ordinary people extend extraordinary help during crisis
Despite its reputation of being a callous city, Delhi has no lack of Good Samaritans. These selfless people show up every time there's a tragedy.

While on most occasions they remain anonymous, on some rare ones, they have a name and a face. Like in the case of Pawan Yadav, a daily wage earner.

Although he does not have a rupee to spare, Yadav is doing his bit to help out the victims of the Lalita Park building collapse tragedy.

For the past two days, Yadav has been trying to make sure that eight of the 12 victims from his village, whose bodies have been identified, are cremated with proper last rites.

"Although they are not my relatives, it is my responsibility to ensure that their bodies reach home on time. I have not gone to work since this tragedy occurred," said Yadav, standing outside the mortuary at Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Hospital and trying to shield himself from the sudden downpour that lashed Delhi on Wednesday.

While eight people from Yadav's village, Bakhtiyarpur in Bihar, were killed in the mishap, four are yet to be traced.

"I have been doing the rounds of city hospitals, for the past two days, in search of the four men who are still missing. Two of them are aged 18 and 19 and were the only earning members of their family," said Yadav, who lives in a slum and earns about Rs 50 daily.

Yadav says he has exhausted a chunk of his daily earnings in extending extraordinary help to victims of the tragedy.