The heroes of the rescue operation have packed up to get back to their battalion base in Arakkonam.

Rescuing Vikas Singh Pan, a labourer from Odisha, was the toughest thing that the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team had to do, said V. Krishna Kumar, sub-inspector, speaking to The Hindu at the site of the building collapse in Moulivakkam.

Sharing his experience in rescuing the labourer, Mr. Krishna Kumar said it was a miracle, as he was caught under debris in an area where the ceilings of three floors had fallen.

The NDRF sniffer dog Rustham was the first to detect the presence of a live person under the rubble. The rescuers then shouted out in different languages, asking if there was a survivor there. When they spoke in Hindi, Vikas responded. That gave the team hope, though he could not tell them exactly where he was as it was completely dark inside, Mr. Krishna Kumar recounted.

“We knew very well that he would have got exhausted, so we sent water drops through different holes in the concrete we had drilled. When we found out that Vikas had received the water through a particular hole, a tube, connected to a water bottle, was sent down that. Slowly, he started drinking and he finished the entire bottle. Then the NDRF team provided another half a litre of water, which he drank.”

Once the rescuers were confident that Vikas had gained some energy, they gradually established his location using a small torch. They then broke the concrete around the area. After a seven-hour struggle, Vikas was brought out of the debris without even a scratch, and the whole site exploded with cheers as he walked out.

But for the expertise of the NDRF team, Vikas could not have been safely rescued from the debris, he said. Twenty-six others have been rescued by the team, and sent to hospitals for treatment. However, sadly, Vikas was the last person the NDRF team was able to bring out alive.

The heroes of the rescue operation have packed up to get back to their battalion base in Arakkonam. But the city will remember these faceless heroes who helped out during what has emerged as the city’s largest manmade disaster.

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