Father refused to be rescued till his daughter was

Trapped in the rubble of a building here that fell on Friday, Ashok Solanki, 34, did not lose hope for 10 hours; rather he could not. He was not alone. His seven-year-old daughter was lying next to him, her leg trapped under concrete. He consoled her and kept on telling her that he would not leave without her.

A resident of the first floor, Mr. Solanki works in the Solid Waste Management department of Mumbai Municipality. While he was already up and awake when the building collapsed, his two daughters and wife were fast asleep. He, along with his elder daughter Meenal, 7, survived but his wife Daya, 29, and younger daughter Avani, 3, did not. Their bodies were recovered on Saturday morning.

When rescuers reached him, Mr. Solanki refused to be taken out. “He told them [rescuers] that his daughter’s leg is stuck and they should rescue her first,” said his childhood friend, who was with him in the hospital ward. Only after Meenal was rescued did he offer to be helped out.

“He had hope till Saturday morning, but then he heard the news about his wife and second daughter. We are trying to console him, but even we are in a state of shock,” the friend added.

Till reports last came in, the death toll had risen to 54 while 32 were reported injured. Rescue operations were in progress till late Saturday evening and the number of persons trapped in the rubble is likely to increase.

On Friday night, police arrested Ashok Mehta of ‘Jain Decorators’ in connection with the building collapse. Mehta had rented out the ground floor of the building and is accused of damaging pillars while renovating it. Police have registered the case under Section 304 (ii) (Culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against him. He has been sent to police custody.

The body of Yogesh Pawar, a reporter from the Marathi daily Sakal, was recovered on Saturday evening. His father’s body was extricated on Friday.

Five other relatives of Yogesh, who resided on a different floor, also lost their lives. Yogesh’s cousin Tushar, the only person in the family to have survived, had left home for work at 5 a.m. on the fateful day. His married elder sister had come home to stay for a few days. She and another sister, their parents and grandmother were in the house when the building collapsed. By Saturday evening, all their bodies had been recovered.

“The loss cannot be expressed in words. We are his friends, but we have no idea how to control him. His entire family is dead. I have never seen him so defeated,” one of Tushar’s friends told The Hindu.