MANAGALURU: “As the rescue operation was suspended on Saturday night due to rough weather, we spent the night waiting for the sun to rise and the Coast Guard ship to arrive. When I alighted from the rescue boat, I cried with relief and joy,” said Balveer Singh of Himachal Pradesh.
He was among the 23 rescued on Sunday. They were aboard a barge which has listed after crashing against a breakwater near Mogaveerapatna, Ullal, on Saturday. Ibis, the barge-cum dredger, is owned by a firm entrusted with the construction of breakwater (a wall to break the waves and protect the coast).
Many workers said they clung to one another and to hope.
Amidst the panic and nervousness, one person emerged as hero on Sunday: Shobhith (24) of Bengre. He was the last person to be rescued by the team as per his wishes.
“I know I am a good swimmer and I can swim to safety if a dangerous situation arises. But my concern for my co-workers did not allow me to abandon them. Hence, I decided to stay with them until the last minute. Now, I am the last person to alight from the barge,” said Shobhith, who was the only local person employed on the barge.
Shobhith recalled the words of his father Shantharam Bengre who asked him not to worry and that everything would end well. Shobhith joined the company just 42 days ago. Though he is a BBM graduate and was employed at Kuwait, he had to return after suffering from malaria a few months ago.
Shantharam Bengre, who won ‘Tulunadu Kesari’ title three times in wresting competitions, told Express that he had been in contact with his son when the barge met with an accident on Saturday. “Though we initially insisted that he use the life-jacket and save himself, when he refused saying he can’t abandon his fellow workers, I supported him and told him not to worry,” he said.
Manoj Kumar of Uttar Pradesh told Express that though he was nervous, Shobhith gave them courage by his words and by his actions. “As Shobhith has been communicating with the local people and constantly gave us an update of the developments, we found a ray of hope,” he said.
However, Abhaya Singh Yadav said he was nervous. “I spent the whole night by recalling my childhood memories. Though I thought it would be my last night, there was a bit of hope in my mind,” Yadav said.
Sanjay Mohan of Lucknow said he didn’t panic as he knew the barge would not sink. “But I was worried that the barge would topple if there was heavy wind and giant waves. I prayed to God and my prayers are answered,” he added.