“It was like being hit by a flash flood. One moment I was standing there and in the next I was swept off by wet concrete,” says 48-year-old Santhosh Kumar, who survived by the teeth of his skin when the building under construction collapsed at St. Augustine’s Church in Aroor, on Monday.
Recovering from the shock and physical wounds at Lakeshore Hospital here, Santhosh, who hails from Aroor, is glad the tragedy stopped short of taking his life. He is left with a swollen right eye, a hairline fracture on his right ankle, a wound on his right thigh and bruises and nagging pain all over his body.
“As we were waiting for the last load of concrete to complete the work on the beam and slab, there was lightning followed by thunder. Minutes after that, the entire structure came down with a thud in the blink of an eye,” recollects Santhosh.
Except for a few workers who had stepped down to fetch a tarpaulin to cover the structure in the event of rain, the others were on top of the building when disaster struck.
Santhosh Kumar was left with a sick feeling right after the fall but had his memory intact. He was not trapped under the debris like many others, but had to try with all his might to free himself from mangled steel rods. He suspects the wound on his right thigh may have been caused when a rod pierced through it as he fought to survive.
Santosh and his neighbour V.P. Sebastian managed to extricate themselves from the debris and helped themselves into an autorickshaw that took them to a nearby hospital. They were then shifted to Lakeshore Hospital in an ambulance arranged by the church.
Sitting near Sebastian who is in a deep sleep, Jessy shudders on recollecting the phone call from her husband immediately after the building collapsed. “He was literally screaming to be heard over the din. He said he only had a minor wound on his head and then the connection went dead,” she says.
The previous phone call from her husband was only a few minutes before. He had mentioned then that the rods seemed to vibrate as he held them. Sebastian had finished his work some time before and had stayed back to help his friends. Jessy said they had resumed work on Monday after a long break for Easter. Standing near Sebastian’s bed, fellow worker Shibu P.S. thanks his stars for not reporting for duty on Monday owing to a headache.
Suresh, who hails from Salem, was not as lucky. He remained trapped under the debris for more than five hours before being rescued early Tuesday. Initially there was confusion as news channels reported that he was the second person who died in the accident leaving his wife in a state of hysteria. Later it was confirmed that the victim was another Suresh hailing from Tirunelveli.
The tragedy has left Mithun, 23, supervisor for the construction company with wounds on his eyes, ears and lips, broken teeth and a fractured hip. His mother Sudha rushed to the city from Kannur early Tuesday after receiving a call from the hospital staff. “He has been working for the construction company for the last one-and-a-half years. I tried calling its proprietor but his mobile was switched off,” she says.
Ten persons are undergoing treatment at Lakeshore Hospital in addition to three at General Hospital and one at Medical Trust Hospital.