Rescuers racing against time were in for a pleasant shock when they pulled out a construction labourer from the debris of the multi-storeyed building in Gandhinagar here on Wednesday, nine days after it collapsed killing over two dozen people.

It was a wrenching moment for a dazed Mallaiah whose exultation turned to anguish when he realised the decomposed body retrieved was that of his wife and colleague, Nagamma. The couple, who had migrated from Gejjihalli in the neighbouring Adoni taluk of Andhra Pradesh, were working as construction labourers for the past four months. They were among the 40 persons trapped inside the building, an apartment complex under construction, when it caved in on the night of January 26.

Puppies found alive too

Touchingly, five newborn puppies were also rescued even as there are fears that two more construction workers are still trapped under the debris. Apart from a fractured hand, the 40-year-old Mallaiah, who said he survived on handfuls of water from a pot, is in a stable condition at the Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Science Hospital here.

He told presspersons from his hospital bed: “I thought I felt my wife was moving her legs and hands and I kept telling her God would save us.” Asked if she had responded, he said no.

“We were about to retire to bed after dinner at around 8 p.m. when we heard a noise. We thought some children had pelted stones and ignored it. Within minutes, the building started collapsing. That’s all I remember. When I came to senses, I was unable to see anything: it was pitch dark. I was squeezed in a gap less than a foot wide and I could feel the beam just above me. I could move my legs and one hand, as the other was fractured. I felt around and touched a pot filled with water from which I could drink with my hand. After that I was just praying to God to get me out. I was also determined to come out alive. My prayers were answered,” Mr. Mallaiah said.

‘Unexpected miracle’

For the rescuers also it was a thrilling moment. “Nobody expected this miracle,” was how Inspector Rajesh of the National Disaster Response Force, Fifth Battalion, Pune, put it. According to him, the manner in which the building collapsed left very little room for optimism, that too after nine days. The search operations now were to essentially retrieve the bodies

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