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Ludhiana factory collapse tragedy: A debilitating wait, amid prayers, chaos

Even though the area was sealed for vehicle entry, hundreds of people remained gathered at the site through the rescue operation.

punjab Updated: Nov 21, 2017 09:05 IST
Aneesha Sareen Kumar
Aneesha Sareen Kumar
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Ludhiana factory collapse,Ludhiana fire,Ludhiana tragedy
Building owner Inderjit Singh’s daughter-in-law wailing. Inderjit was rushed to the hospital following a cardiac arrest after his building collapse. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

“Why are you taking pictures? Please go! Help bring my uncle out from the debris!”, screamed a wailing Priya to mediapersons as she waited anxiously for her paternal uncle, Laxman Dravid, a Valmiki leader, who was trapped inside the debris.

Priya was not alone. Innumerable relatives of the victims, including daughters searching for their fathers, were seen struggling to establish contact with them over mobile phones, not forgetting to chant prayers for their safety. Visuals of firefighters’ helmets buried in the debris deepened their fears.

The family of the building owner, Inderjit Singh, remained on tenterhooks since the fire broke out at 6am. They rushed to the scene as Inderjit made sense of the situation, his five-storey property and business getting gutted in front of his eyes.

His wife, son and daughter-in-law stood huddled the entire day, grieving their loss, hours before the building came tumbling down. As the catastrophe struck, Inderjit suffered a cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital, his family members also taken away due to difficulty breathing.

Deputy commissioner Pradeep Agarwal said the rescue operations will go on for the next six to seven days, following which they will be able to estimate the exact toll.

Chaos ruled the day

As many as 16 fire brigade vehicles were pressed in for service, apart from four cranes to lift the debris, amid utter chaos. Residents got on top of their houses to witness the rescue operations, making the struggle of the fire brigade and the MC officials even more daunting.

Ambulances were seen struggling to make way amid the shocked crowd, narrow lanes compounding their trouble. Even though the area was sealed for vehicle entry, hundreds of people remained gathered at the site through the rescue operation.

The State Disaster Response Force set up a rope to cordon off the site, but it was far from enough. Police as well as the rescue team personnel were seen screaming on the top of their voices, asking people to make way, also in vain.

Poisonous gases erupting out of the factory converted the area into a gas chamber, forcing rescuers to wear masks. A number of NGOs swung into action to serve water and food to the rescue teams, who struggled against poisonous gases and time to extricate survivors.

First Published: Nov 21, 2017 09:05 IST