CHENNAI: In what rescuers are calling the 'Monday Morning Miracle', a woman who was trapped under 20 tonnes of rubble, was extracted alive, 40 hours after the high-rise building in Porur came crashing down. Officials said that she must have been caught in an air pocket in the basement and must have survived without water and food, surviving on just air.
After rain pounded the crash site till 1 am, rescue efforts were staggering from exhaustion and frustration - all the thermal imaging showed were bodies without any form of movement. And then at 5 am, there was a singular sign of life, from what appeared to a fissure, some 4 metres under the pile of debris, "We began to dig furiously and cut through several tonnes of rubble because we knew the woman was alive. We could not speak to her till we were closer, but all the teams were energised by some sign of life," said an NDRF official at the site.
At 7.50 am, there was a blip as officials say the woman did not respond briefly, so they feared the worst. But as they reached through and hauled her out, the medical teams at the site rushed to stabilise her, "They gave her some oxygen because of the hours of confinement and trauma. Remarkably, she was alive and actually conscious.
This is a testament to the combines effort and the spirits of the all teams working to save lives - doctors, nurses, paramedics, police, NDRF, Fire services and everyone else, as ordered by the CM," said a joyous Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan, after she was hauled out at 8.05 am.
Officials at the site confirmed that the woman has been identified as Meenammal (35), wife of Ganesh, a labourer who hails from Vizianagaram, "There are facial injuries and there is a bit of disorientation, but she is essentially unharmed. It is remarkable," said a spokesperson at Sri Ramachandra University, where she was rushed at 8.15 am.
Of the two rescuers who climbed into the air pocket, one was TN commando Murugan S, who spent close to 3 hours climbing 30 feet under the debris to reach the lady. "I just wanted to get her before the air gave out," he told reporters, after the ordeal.
At the hospital, the woman is undergoing basic treatment and counselling - to get over the trauma of being trapped in a dark and confined space with her co-worker who died sometime yesterday.
The finall death tally has risen to 18 as 4 more bodies were pulled out of the rubble through the night.