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'I managed to cheat death'

mumbai Updated: Aug 19, 2010 02:34 IST
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Dhananjay Seth (20), a relative of the Raikars, believed that at least one member of the family could have been alive had she heeded his advice.

Five of the Raikar family’s seven members died in Tuesday's building collapse.

Seth, who had gone to Sonibai Bhawan to help the Raikars move their belongings, was at the spot when the building came crashing down.

"I had a meal with them before we started moving the articles," said Seth, who has been admitted to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital at Kalwa. He was injured on the head and legs.

Seth told Hindustan Times: "I told Vimla [Raikar] to leave the building after I spotted huge cracks on the walls, but she ignored my advice". Seconds later, the building fell, trapping Vimla (25) in its debris. She eventually succumbed to her injuries.

"Things would have been different had she listened to me," said Seth.

Describing the scene, Seth said he was fortunate to get away. As he was moving something out, his return to the Raikar home was delayed by a few seconds. "I was standing just metres away," Seth said.

Though he was injured, his condition is not serious. "I cheated death by seconds," he sighed.

'Zest for life saved my mother'

It was her indomitable will to live that helped 60-year-old Usha Sawant survive the impact of the ceiling falling on her as Sonibai Bhawan collapsed on Tuesday.

"My mother's zest for life saved her from certain death," said Sandesh Sawant, Usha's 26-year-old son. Usha is recuperating at the intensive care unit of Criticare Hospital in Thane and is out of danger.

Sandesh, a fitness instructor with a well-known gymnasium, recalled that at around 4 pm on Tuesday he met a friend, Amit Patel (25), and asked him to go to his home and ask Usha to leave as the building had developed cracks.

"But before I could get there, the building collapsed," said Patel.

Patel immediately called up Sandesh and his brother Sachin. "Sachin, who got there first, started searching for our mother, who was trapped in the debris. He called out for Aai (Marathi for mother)," Sandesh said. After about 15 minutes, Sachin heard a faint cry from a corner.

"My mother, apparently on hearing Sachin's voice, called out his name. It's then that she was removed and rushed to hospital," said Sandesh. "My mother always had a very positive attitude towards life; her zest for it is admirable. It's this attitude that saved her."

'Mud poured out of cracked pillar'

Raman Kumar Kaushal (55) woke up around 1.30 am on Tuesday after he felt mild tremors. As he ran out of his ground-floor flat in Sonibai Bhawan, he spotted cracks on a pillar.

Like the other residents, he didn’t take the cracks seriously. That proved to be a mistake.

About 15 hours later, the building collapsed.

"I saw that mud was falling from the cracks and immediately raised an alarm. There were mostly women at home as all the men had gone to work.

"I asked all of them to get out of the building immediately. I rushed upstairs to get everybody out. Only then did I leave the building,” said Kaushal, a resident of Sonibai Bhawan for the past 30 years.

One of the first residents to benefit from Kaushal’s alert call was octogenarian S.V. Ladh and his wife Sheela (75).

"As soon as Kaushal informed us, I took my wife out and sent her away in a rickshaw. No sooner did I come out of the building than it collapsed. Something hit me on the back of my head, but otherwise I was safe,” recounted Ladh.

While Ladh and his wife are staying at their son’s house, Kaushal and his wife refused to budge from the building site on Wednesday.

'We couldn't save friend's mother'

It was like any other Tuesday afternoon for five Kalwa youths as they went about their game of cricket. Until they heard Sonibai Bhawan come down like a pack of cards.

Omkar Kadam (19), an FYBCom student of Mehta College, and his friends were amongst the first to reach the site and start rescue work, well before the fire brigade arrived about half an hour later.

"We pulled six people out of the debris, of whom five survived. We feel fortunate that we could reach the spot immediately," said Lavesh Bohir (19), one the group of five.

The youths transported the victims to hospitals on motorbikes and in rickshaws.

"Passersby helped us ferry the injured to hospitals in their vehicles too," said Mangesh Bidve, a BSc (IT) student.

However, the youths were anguished that they could not save their friend's mother who passed away on Tuesday night despite their efforts. "Though we managed to save our friend Swapnil Keni, his mother succumbed to injuries," said Bidve.

The youths said they informed Keni of her death only on Wednesday morning. "It was very difficult for us to tell him about her death. Keni is in shock now. We don’t know how he will cope with the loss. He was very close to his mother," said Bidve.