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Failing Mahi

About 85 hours of anxiety and hope turned to despair and distress on Sunday as rescuers who had furiously dug a parallel tunnel to save four-year-old Mahi who fell into a narrow and deep borewell, found her dead.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2012 02:10 IST

About 85 hours of anxiety and hope turned to despair and distress on Sunday as rescuers who had furiously dug a parallel tunnel to save four-year-old Mahi who fell into a narrow and deep borewell, found her dead.

Mahi accidentally fell into the borewell at the IMT township just before midnight on Wednesday, sparking a major rescue operation involving the army and civilian agencies.

The efforts to save five-year-old Mahi Upadhyay were televised live by national news channels, with people across the country performing religious rituals and offering prayers for her survival.

Hundreds of soldiers, engineers and medical experts were involved in the attempt to rescue her, using heavy machinery to dig a parallel tunnel to reach her as well as pumping oxygen into the well to try to keep her alive.

The news shattered the thousands of people who had gathered outside the hospital and at the site of the borewell for days, hoping and praying that the girl would somehow survive.

Her body was carried out on Sunday wrapped in a blanket and taken to a nearby hospital where doctors declared her dead.

"Mahi was stuck at a level of 60 feet (20 metres). The diameter of the well was very narrow, nothing could be sent inside to save her," senior police officer Anil Rao told reporters at the scene.

Gurgaon officials said she was dead even before soldiers who had been working non-stop for days finally made contact with the child just afternoon.

Doctors, after a post-mortem examination of Mahi's body, said her body had decomposed.

"She might have died the same or the next day," Deepak Mathur, who along with BB Agrawal, conducted the post-mortem, said. The examination report has not yet been prepared.

Soldiers had begun digging a parallel tunnel Thursday morning but by Friday evening they were thoroughly exhausted, forcing the army officials to bring in a fresh military unit.

By late Thursday, worried army officers reported that a miniature camera dropped into the borewell was not showing any signs of movement by Mahi.

On Saturday, the army took help from a group of civilians adept in digging borewells and tunnels.

After several attempts to reach her had failed, a team of the Army reached the child early on Sunday morning and she was expected to be out soon after. But this turned into hours. With every passing hour, doctors on the site were worried as they said a child that age would not survive without water and food for so long. The tiny size of the borewell prevented authorities from sending food and water down to her even though they were pumping in oxygen.

Finally, after nearly 90 agonizing hours, a soldier and one of the civilian rescuers reached the spot where Mahi lay. The girl -- the body -- was gently lifted and rushed to the nearest hospital.

Through the last four days, teams from the Army, Police, National Security Guards, Gurgaon civic authorities, Gurgaon Metro Rail were involved in pulling her out.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) reached Manesar on Saturday to assist the army equipped with a GPS-based tracker system to help locate rocks that had slowed down drilling work.

According to the Civil Surgeon (Gurgaon), Dr Parveen Garg, the temperature at 68-feet-deep pit was about 5 degree Celsius less than the surface but humidity was about 90%. Army jawans had to take turns to go down as they dehydrated frequently and could not stay there more than 15 minutes. A team of the Army Medical Core was deployed at the site.

The supply of oxygen was provided through a pipe to the child as well as to the personnel inside the tunnel. According to the administration officials, Mahi had not responded to the oxygen supply.

"On Friday evening, experts with Ground Penetrating Radar System (GPRS) were called to assist the rescue team.

It was this machine that zeroed in on her exact location. They had said that even though the machine located Mahi they were unable to detect any movement. The doctors then, were hoping that she was just unconscious.

Experts on Saturday had said that survival chances for four-year-old Mahi are 50:50.

"Only a miracle can save the girl," said Dr Parveen Garg, the civil surgeon, Gurgaon. "The oxygen level at such a depth is low though we are supplying oxygen through pipes. The humidity is also very high. The CCTV footage, unfortunately, has shown no movement till now."

Throughout the operation, the only ray of hope for the rescue team was the fact that Mahi did not fall head down and her legs hit the rocky bottom.

'Stone over pit was removed'
Mahi's relatives on Saturday said that the stone put to cover the borewell had been removed only a couple of hours before the accident by an auto driver. The driver had brought home a music system for the four-year-old's birthday party and the chassis of his vehicle had hit the stone. Unaware of the fact that there was deep pit there, the driver had pushed the stone aside to free his vehicle. "Since it was dark, he could not see the pit. His vehicle hit the stone and stopped. He stepped down and moved it aside. He then moved a little further and parked his vehicle without realizing the fact that there was an open borewell very close to the auto," said Vikram Singh, the sarpanch of Kho village.

This was not the first incident of kids falling into borewell, there were many such indicents in the past. Some where rescued after days of complex operations while for some it was a battle lost.

Whole nation was following the rescue operation and were praying for Mahi's life. Twitter too was flooded with best wishes for her from Twitterati across the country and worldwide.Though all the prayers were not enough to save her life. People were distressed after listening to the news of her death.

First Published: Jun 24, 2012 20:01 IST