CHENNAI: Belief may have been shrouded in debris, both figuratively and literally, but a little bit seeped through on Sunday when rescue personnel, braving rain and hail, found a trapped woman worker alive 26 hours after the 11-storey building collapsed in Moulivakkam.
It capped a day when the rescuers found six survivors and eight deceased. In all, 13 people have been found dead at the site while 21 have been rescued and were in different stages of medical care.
After a whole day of cutting, welding, heavy lifting and sweating it out without much success, finding Krishnaveni alive was nothing short of therapeutic for the teams.
Proof lies in the fact that a huge cheer rang out as rescuers lifted the middle-aged lady in a green sari out of the building debris and loaded her into an ambulance to be taken to the hospital.
Both the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services teams and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) contingent fought to keep their spirits from falling prey to exhaustion and depression.
“We have been going at it for the last 20 hours and after we found Sunitha at 9.45 am, there has been very little sign of life,” said Rama Sundar, an officer with the Tamil Nadu Fire Service.
And then there was a murmur of hope: NDRF teams detected two women buried in the basement of the right wing, who were extremely weak and injured. “We had been slipping them water and talking to them constantly, while the teams tried to clear a path through to them,” said a 108 ambulance worker.
A whole section of roof with heavy beams stood between the rescue teams and the trapped women, but they kept at it for six hours — a period during which hope was at a premium.
“The rain and the hailstorm in the evening slowed us down and we could not use our power cutter as sludge was formed in the entire area. We had to wait for an entire hour for the rain to subside before we went again at it hard,” said an NDRF officer.
At 6.40 pm, just minutes after Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa inspected the disaster scene and assured thorough probe, there was a breakthrough — the sections of roof and beams had been cut long enough to carry Krishnaveni through.
But just then a cry rang out from the paramedics. She had a neck injury. Gauze, strong arms and a stiff stretcher board were used and stifling her pain, Krishnaveni was hauled out and into the ambulance to be rushed to the hospital.
Finding her galvanised the NDRF and the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue services personnel into continuing their efforts to pull out the woman who was trapped with Krishnaveni.
Belief had reluctantly returned one of her own, from within the depths of her dark underbelly.