Rescue operations at the site of the building collapse lasted more than six hours. As locals, firemen and police pitched in, all but two of those trapped in the debris were saved

For Amirdhalingam (50), an employee of the social welfare department, it was an agonising wait as fire department personnel attempted to rescue his wife Bharathi (48) and son A. Parthasarathy (22), who were trapped in the debris of the collapsed building on Sunguvar Street. All of a sudden on Wednesday morning, his house had caved in on his family, trapping them inside.

Though the bright copper blue façade of the building was intact, behind it two lives were lost, and several other residents of the apartment escaped narrowly. Many in the neighbourhood said that though the mishap was waiting to happen, they had not expected the structure to collapse like it did.

Though Amirdhalingam had suffered minor injuries in his right arm, he managed to retain his composure and waited patiently at the site, even bringing water and juice for those involved in the rescue operation.

His son Parthasarathy, could not ascertain how long he had been stuck beneath the debris. Around 11 a.m., he was spotted by firemen and he told divisional fire officer, Meenakshi Vijaykumar to tell his father not to worry and that he was fine. He was the first to be rescued, and when he was brought out from the entrance of the house around 12.20 p.m. in a stretcher, neighbours and bystanders cheered and whistled.

At Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital where he has been admitted, he said that they had complained to the house owner about cracks in the wall of their first floor portion.

“I managed to escape and went in again to rescue my mother. That time, I got stuck. I picked out small stones and concrete to create a vent to breathe through,” he said, thanking the fire rescue officers.

M. Gururajan and his family of four who lived in the first floor of the house, were among those who were able to flee the structure from the front entrance.

It was as if the old building finally decided to sit down, he said, watching the rescue operations from under a safe roof nearby.

“There was a loud noise and dust started enveloping the pathway,” he said. His son, Rajmohan, said that everything from their ration card to important documents, were stuck inside. He said the condition of the building was bordering on the precarious. Many like him, who lived as tenants in the house, turned volunteers at the site.

Minutes after another resident, Thyagarajan was taken out of the rubble, 14-year old K. Sudershan, one of the volunteers ran to clear the way for the stretcher to be brought in. He along with M.V. Ganesh and S. Venkatakrishnan came to volunteer from Mylapore after they heard the news.

According to the resident doctors at GH, while Parthasarathy suffered a fracture on his right foot and lacerations on his right forearm, his mother complained of numbness in the left thigh and was suspected to have suffered a rib fracture.

“She suffered from blunt injuries causing pain and shock that can often lead to numbness,” said V. Kanagasabai, dean of GH. Both are now stable.

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