As soon as he heard the first cries of help from patients trapped in the AMRI Hospital, which caught fire on Friday morning, Shankar Maity, who lives in the adjacent slum, dashed off to join the rescue efforts. Without caring for the noxious fumes — coming out of the windows, swelling in the wards, and creeping in the corridors — he climbed into the building to lend a helping hand.

In the course of the rescue operations, Shankar had inhaled toxic fumes in such volumes that by evening he had to be rushed to hospital. He is now admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of another hospital some distance away.

“In the pitch black night he took off to help those patients and we did not know where he was till about 11.30 in the morning,” said Durga Koyal, Shankar's sister, here on Saturday.

Shankar had returned home for a quick bath before leaving again to help the crowds of anxious relatives of the patients who had started pouring in to locate their kin, she added.

“He did not have a mask or handkerchief and plunged right into the rescue work. He must have helped at least 20 patients out of the building,” said Ms. Koyal.

By Friday evening, Shankar felt uneasy and was finding it difficult to breathe, so he took an antacid and lay down. But a few hours later he felt much worse; late in the night, he was rushed to the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishtan Hospital.

“The doctors here said he had breathed in too much of the toxic smoke. When we brought him here we had to sign a bond that he may have to be put on ventilator support, but thankfully that was not necessary,” said Subhash Koyal, Shankar's brother-in-law.

The son of a hawker, 23-year-old Shankar is pursuing his graduation in the evening classes of the South City College.

While his father, mother and brother-in-law spent all of Friday night and most of the next day at the hospital, his sisters anxiously await news from the hospital.

“Already we have spent about Rs. 5,000 in purchasing medicines for Shankar and we have not even paid any of the hospital dues so far,” said Subhash, adding that the Ramkrishna Mission Seva Pratishtan authorities had been very cooperative and had not pressed the family to pay their dues.

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