For the past ten days Heena Shah’s Google mail status message has been ‘I’m alive.’ The 20-year-old Dadar resident is an engineering student at the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology and she is happy to be back home.
“I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night thinking that everything around me is shaking. People say that the earthquake lasted for 40 seconds, but to me it felt like a lifetime,” said Shah who arrived in the city on Tuesday night.
On September 18, an earthquake of a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale rocked Sikkim. At least 111 people were killed and most of the deaths occurred in Sikkim itself. At Shah’s institute, a few people were injured and an army chopper had to fly in the next day to pick up three injured students and take them to the hospital.
Her two Mumbai-based friends from the same institute — Aditi Gajaria and Shruti Sahu — will be back in the city next week. The students have been through a lot since the earthquake. The overhead tank of one of their buildings broke, there were cracks in the rooms and worst of all their mobile phone networks failed and they could not get in touch with their families.
“Only my network was available from time to time. So, everyone was using my phone. We did not sleep that night. In fact, we did not sleep for quite a few nights after the quake,” said Gajaria, a first-year engineering student who stays at Fort in Mumbai.
More than the quake itself, students were injured during the stampede every time there was an aftershock. “There was a lot of panic and students were running around. It was a very difficult night,” said Shah.
Talking about how Mumbai deal with terror attacks and floods, Sahu, a Chembur resident, said, “To be honest, people in Mumbai bounce back much faster. Over here there is a terror attack and people are back to work the next day.”
“But in Sikkim, people are still frightened. Two days after the earthquake students said they wanted to go home. The earthquake was tough and everyone will be afraid, but I guess Mumbai has more resilience.”