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Sunday, September 02, 2001

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Operation rescue continues

By S. Shivakumar

CHENNAI, SEPT. 1. Over 50 hours after he fell into the borewell pit in Mannady, the frantic rescue operation for five-year-old Tamizhmani was still trying to overcome obstacles.

Saturday began with little progress on the rescue effort, as the attempt to reach him through a sloping pit created on Friday made little headway.

There was a sense of rising despair and anxiety all through the city, as the rescue teams could not get anywhere close to the goal of extricating the child from the narrow borewell pit.

Beginning afresh, on the advice of a private team consisting of N. Velayudham, a builder, assisted by Mr. S. Ekambaram Pillai and Mr. C. S. Pitchai Pillai, a core group was formed today and a massive operation launched to create a new well, just two feet away from the original one in which the child lay trapped.

As a preventive measure, a pipe was also sunk for about 25 feet into the same hole where the boy was trapped, to prevent sand from falling in.

The new well had to be created because the cement rings of the earlier well had crumbled under pressure.

The soil in the area was extremely loose, which was periodically delaying the rescue operation. Horizontal steel blocks were created and inserted into the new well, at a depth of about 35 feet to create a passage towards the boy.

It was a herculean task to lower the heavy steel structures, and this was achieved using a pulley. As they descended into the well and landed at the bottom, using a hydraulic jack, they were pushed in by two firemen equipped with masks.

The final stage of the operation continued late into Saturday night. Once the rings were placed, the sand was scooped out and it was also pulled out using another pulley.

Doctors standing by at the site said that despite the supply of oxygen, the survival of the child depended on several factors, including his position in the pit, and his ability to breathe, and any injuries especially to the chest.

Throughout the day, the effort was directed towards digging the second proximal well, after the new technical team suggested it.

The steel structure which was already created elsewhere, was modified at the site to fit into the well.

Apart from the firemen, several local residents including a team trained in digging wells assisted the fire service personnel.

Two firemen who were fitted with a jacket, a hook and oxygen masks were lowered for the final stage. A microphone was also sent along with them down the 35 feet pit. At regular intervals, Mr. Velayudham enquired about their progress over the mike.

Ten-year-old Chinnaraj did the initial work of digging out mud towards the tunnel to enable the firemen to position themselves for the final stage.

The operation continued to be hampered because despite the appeals, several families were using their toilets, which led to a sudden gush of sewage to the newly dug well. Even the slush was scooped out at regular intervals and dumped.

The Deputy Director, Fire Service (North), Mr. M. Samidurai, assisted by Mr. N. Jeevanandam, Divisional Fire Officer (South) and Mr. K. Bakthavatsalam, DFO, North led the men in the rescue effort.

On the Police side, it was Mr. C. Sylendra Babu, Joint Commissioner, North who supervised the work.

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Section  : Southern States
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