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Defunct well caves in, panic grips residents

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LIFE-THREATENING: The well that caved in at Shivaji Nagar Extension at Edayarpalayam near the city. Photo: K. Ananthan
LIFE-THREATENING: The well that caved in at Shivaji Nagar Extension at Edayarpalayam near the city. Photo: K. Ananthan

Special Correspondent

Officials promise quick action, but nothing has happened

COIMBATORE: Residents on Shivaji Nagar Extension II Street at Edayarpalayam on the city outskirts are in the grip of fear brought by the caving in of a defunct well.

Used as a garbage dump for close to 20 years, the well measured around 10 ft in diameter till last Sunday. Residents said on Wednesday that they were shaken by a rumble around 9.45 p.m. on Sunday night. They thought it was an earthquake.

When they stepped out of their houses amid heavy rain trying to spot the source of the unusual sound, they found that the well had become bigger by another five to seven ft in diameter.

Disastrous

Over the last two days, the well has been becoming bigger with more earth from all sides caving in. Residents feared that if this continued, the well would prove disastrous for an apartment and a two-storeyed house just 15 ft away.

The 100-year-old well had been 170 ft deep and part of a 6.9-acre farm more than 20 years ago.

It had been used only for agriculture purposes. After the farm was converted into residential land and a layout formed in 1986, it remained in disuse.

A dry well then became ideal for dumping all kinds of waste.

Even when the layout was made into plots, four cents on which the well was located were left out. Residents showed on Wednesday the map of the layout on which, the plots on either side of the well were marked as sites number 30 and 31. The one in the middle was marked only as a well.

The well had remained neglected, but none seemed to have foreseen any danger from it.

Heavy rain

Heavy rain over the last week was suspected to have led to seepage from all sides. With the concrete lining already worn out, loose earth from all sides had collapsed into the well, bringing the parapet also down.

As for the two houses close to the well, the residents said fire services personnel who rushed to the spot on Sunday night asked the occupants to stay elsewhere. The residents were back in their home but were living in fear of damage to life and property.

A pungent smell emanated from the well to reveal the extent of abuse by dumping garbage.

Over the last two decades, garbage had also reduced its depth. Now, with the threat of things turning worse, the residents want to fill up the well to save the houses around.

J. Mohan Kumar Raja, a resident, said a complaint had been lodged with the Coimbatore Rural Police. Even as efforts would be on to locate the owner of the site to demand damage-containing measures, the residents were prepared to spend their money on closing the well.

Death trap

In a representation to the District Collector, Neeraj Mittal, the residents said the well was a death trap for them. They said a few officials who visited the spot had promised quick action but nothing had happened till date.

"Our immediate task is to contain the damage and protect the residents rather than concentrating only on action against the site owner," said Mr. Raja.

The road was becoming less motorable by the day because of more area around the well caving in. School vans and most of the vehicle users in the colony avoided this stretch, Mr. Raja and other residents said.

A board put up by them cautions people against going near the well. The residents draw comfort from the lull in the monsoon.

Had it rained in the last two days, the damage could have been much worse, they said.

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