Sinhgad wall collapse: Rescue delayed, everything was over within seconds allege survivors
Everything was over by the time I reached the spot,” recounts Aatura Rehmal, a resident of Saurabh Plaza building, located right next to the spot where the wall collapsed at midnight in Ambegaon, killing six workers.
Recalling the tragic incident, Rehmal, says, “I had just returned home and was going to bed when I heard a loud crashing sound. I looked out from my flat’s balcony and saw the shanties crushed under a tree and the compound. I immediately rushed to the spot along with my friends to help the people stuck under the debris, but all was over within seconds.”
Residents who had first gathered at the spot and began the rescue operation at Sinhgad college before the fire brigade officials arrived, said that heavy rains made the rescue work difficult.
Residents also alleged that the rescue team reached the mishap site late. “It took almost two hours for the earth movers to reach the spot as they couldn’t find the exact location. Also, the machine got stuck in the muck during the rescue operations and half an hour was wasted in trying to remove it. So, the chances of survival of the people stuck under the debris reduced as there was delay in the rescue,” said one of the eyewitnesses and a resident of the area, Naresh Bhosale.
“We tried to pull out as many as we could and hoped for the rescue teams to arrive early. Unfortunately, the rescue operations took time and resulted in six deaths,” he added.
A 17-year-old survivor, Srinath Patel, said, “I was stuck under the debris for about an hour. I could not move, but somehow tried to breathe through the gaps. Our house was right in the middle of the five houses which were damaged,” said Patel, whose parents were rushed to Navale hospital for treatment. His mother suffered a fracture while his father suffered other injuries. The Patel family are from Chhattisgarh. “I had started working since the past 10-11 months, but my parents had been working with this contractor since the past two years,” he added.
Naseem Shaikh who also helped with the rescue operations, said, “We were trying to pull out as many people as possible from the debris. Two of them survived as they managed to get some oxygen, but the rest had died by the time the NDRF team reached the spot.”
Pune district collector, Naval Kishore Ram, however, said, “The NDRF and fire brigade officials reached the spot on time. If the teams were indeed delayed like the residents allege, it will appear in our fact finding report. I will personally look into the matter.”
Among those who died were construction labourers from Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Rani Thackeray, one of the survivors of the incident, said, “Our family came in search of work to Pune from Chhattisgarh 15 days ago. We all were sleeping when we heard a woman scream and when we came out of our shanty, we saw that a tree had fallen on the shanties just next to us. Everyone was shouting for help, but as the incident happened in the middle of the night, we were not able to see anything properly.” Rani lost two of her brother-in-laws to the mishap.
Manisha Jadhav, a nearby resident, said, “My husband rushed to help the victims of the wall collapse immediately. I gave a saree to a victim whose clothes were torn due to the mishap.”
Savita Sandip Patil, another eyewitness, said, “The builders think that the lives of poor construction workers are cheap and hence, they do not take adequate steps for their safety and security. The workers were living in very bad conditions and they had no proper facilities.”
Ramdin Naresh, a senior citizen, was overwhelmed with grief as he saw his daughter Mamta Patel being taken to the morgue for post-mortem. Mamta’s husband Radhe Patel, his father Jetu Patel and his mother Priyadarshani Patel also died along with his daughter.