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Survivors' tale: 3 hours under the debris
Krishnakumar P in Mumbai |
August 23, 2005 21:43 IST
Last Updated: August 23, 2005 23:55 IST
Eleven people were killed and 24 others injured when an over 100-year-old building collapsed in Mumbai early Tuesday morning.
This is the story of a family of four that was buried for almost three hours till help came around, and who survived to tell the tale.
Tuesday, 1.30 am
Just as 27-year-old Mannan Sayed was about to go to bed, he got a call from his elder brother Kamran Sayed, a 30-year-old contractor residing in Sadaf, a four-storied building in Nagpada, central Mumbai.
'The whole building has collapsed. My ankle is broken and I have just managed to reach JJ Hospital. Please go save my wife and children.'
The line went blank.
Without wasting any time, Mannan, who lives near Kamran's house, took a friend along and rushed to Temkar Street in search of his brother's wife Shabina.
20 minutes earlier
Kamran and his wife Shabina, 23, had just finished dinner at their second-floor flat in the 100+ years old building.
For long, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation had identified Sadaf as unsafe and had issued warnings to the residents, asking them to vacate the place.
Just as the couple were midway through a post-dinner chat, they heard somebody shouting downstairs.
The signboard of a shop had fallen down and plaster and concrete had begun to fall off, causing the commotion. "Kamran! Come and move your bike to safety," someone shouted.
Kamran ran down, moved his bike away from the building and went back upstairs.
A contractor, he did not want to take any chances and asked his wife to move the children to safety.
"I turned when the floor gave way. I had my right foot inside the house and a column landed directly on my foot," he would say later.
A few feet ahead of him, even as Shabina was running towards the stairs with the children, two floors of concrete came crashing on her.
Kamran managed to remove part of the concrete pile on top of him and was one of the first residents to be spotted and rescued. He was taken to JJ Hospital, where doctors treated him for a badly broken ankle.
Mannan reaches his brother's place only to find a pile of rubble "as high as one full storey".
"There was a gaping hole where the building stood. The building, as it collapsed, ripped off parts of neighbouring structures. Part of a wall to the right had come off and was at a precarious slant (See picture here). It looked like it might fall any time."
By the time Mannan reached the place, word had reached Shabina's brother Sajjan Pervez too.
The two set out to search for Shabina and her children -- 3-year-old Fauzan, and Afnan, a mere year-and-a-half old.
The locals were trying to do their best, clawing their way through debris, searching for signs for life.
"The road is very narrow and it took some time for police and fire officers to move the heavy equipment in," Mannan said.
Till that arrived, not much happened. Initially, people kept themselves to the far end of the damaged wall. Nobody was willing to move in closer and search the area around the wall.
Pervez, calculating that Shabina and the kids must be somewhere close to the damaged wall, went around it to check if there was a way around. "But there was no way. As we were wondering how to get there, a young guy, who we know only as Moin, stepped in. He walked right up to the wall and started clearing the debris all by himself. Picking up courage, soon a couple of us joined him."
As the small group started clearing the debris, it was Moin who first saw the hands of a toddler sticking out.
"It was the younger child, Afnan. We carefully cleared the rubble around him and pulled him out. He was safe and had suffered only a minor cut to his forehead," said Mannan.
For Pervez it was enough motivation to step up the pace. "Once we saw Afnan, it took us just five minutes to locate Fauzan," he said.
Though she was clutching the children when the building collapsed, it took a little longer time to pull Shabina out.
By around 4:00 am all three were pulled to safety and rushed to nearby JJ Hospital.
Tuesday morning, doctors declared both parents and the children out of danger.
Shabina is in the female ward, Kamran in the male ward and the children in the paediatric ward.
In ward 14, a yellow chart above Shabina's bed tells us that she has suffered severe bruises to her neck.
Covered in green hospital linen, she can barely speak.
As Pervez narrated the story, she interjected him a few times to correct bits and pieces of the details. At the end of it, as still as ever, she rolled her eyes to look in our direction and said, "Though I was completely buried under the debris, I could see Afnan's hand sticking out. And with my free hand, I managed to grab a broken pole and wave it. I was hoping someone would see us. At last Moin spotted us."
Pervez added: "Moin is really a brave man. He stepped into the rubble even as all others were scared."
In paediatric ward 41, Afnan and Fauzan are playing around cheerfully. That is also the only ward out of bounds for visitors.
In ward 13, Kamran had just returned after an X-ray. Bloody patches can be seen on the heavy bandage on his right leg. He is in pain and under sedatives.
But his eyes are open and it is clear he is listening to every word that Mannan is saying.
Just as I wish him a speedy recovery and turn to leave, he reveals the critical piece of information.
"Recently we came to know that Shabina is pregnant with our third child."