One killed, 3 workers trapped in 300-foot-deep quarry

Six workers were traped in the quarry at Adaimithippaankulam near Tirunelveli

Six workers were traped in the quarry at Adaimithippaankulam near Tirunelveli | Photo Credit: A. SHAIKMOHIDEEN

An earthmover operator, Selvam, 25, died hours after being rescued from a 300-foot-deep stone quarry at Adaimithippaankulam in Tirunelveli district on Sunday evening, even as three workers remained trapped since Saturday night.

Six workers were trapped after a giant boulder from the loose soil rolled down the private quarry pit in the Munneerpallam police station limits. Two of them were rescued with minor injuries on Sunday.

At the time of filing this report, a 30-member team from the National Disaster Response Force, Arakkonam, was on its way to the site by road to join the rescue efforts.

Earlier, the police and fire and rescue services personnel rescued J. Vijay, 27, of Naattaarkulam, and Murugan, 27, of Valluvar Colony at Vittilaapuram in Thoothukudi district, and rushed them to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital.

The earthmover operator, Selvam of Ilaiyaarkulam in Tirunelveli, who was rescued after 18 hours following a daredevil operation in the midst of falling stones, succumbed to injuries at Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital.

The police said lorry drivers M. Selvakumar, 30, of Kaakkulam, and P. Rajendran, 35, of Oorudaiyarkudiyiruppu, and lorry cleaner P. Murugan, 23, of Vadakkankulam, covered under a heap of sand and stones along with their vehicles, were remained trapped.

The police said that on Saturday evening, after rocks were blasted in the Venkateshwara Stone Crusher Unit, located on private patta land, three earthmovers were sent into the quarry to take the blasted rocks in lorries to the stockyard. While the work was on, a 150-foot-tall boulder crashed down around 11.30 p.m. In the impact, stones and sand fell on two lorries and the three earthmovers and all six persons were trapped under the rubble.

On information from other workers, personnel of the fire and rescue services station at Palayamkottai and of the Munneerpallam police station rushed to the spot. However, they could not start any operation instantly owing to darkness and the continuous falling of small rocks.

Collector V. Vishnu and Superintendent of Police P. Saravanan arrived at the spot in the early hours to make preliminary arrangements to start the rescue operation at the break of dawn. Before reaching the site, Mr. Vishnu, based on the information he gathered from his subordinates camped at the spot, asked the Navy to deploy its helicopter to lift the victims.

A Navy helicopter from Uchipuli, which was pressed into service, was unable to undertake the mission because of the depth of the quarry.

“Before assessing the site in sunlight, we thought the victims could be rescued by lowering the rescuers into the quarry from the hovering helicopter. But the depth, the mountainous heap of stone and sand and falling of rocks from the loose soil prevented the naval personnel from commencing the operation,” Mr. Vishnu said.

Even then, a daring team of police and fire and rescue services personnel reached the bottom of the quarry to rescue the injured earthmover operators Murugan and Vijay around 7.30 a.m.

“The falling stones crushed Selvam’s earthmover and covered him up to hip. Hence, he was unable to come out,” said Vijay and Murugan while being taken to the hospital.

Steps were taken to cut the steel bars surrounding Selvam with the help of welders. Though it was given up after a while with rocks falling, Mr. Vishnu mobilised a team of technocrats from the region’s private mining and engineering firms. One of them was former CISF jawan Michael, an expert welder.

After slightly lifting the mangled earthmover in which Selvam had been trapped and partially insulating him from the welding heat, Mr. Michael, accompanied by fire and rescue services personnel, successfully cut the damaged heavy equipment and extricated the victim around 5.30 p.m. After the waiting doctors examined him, Selvam was rushed to hospital for treatment. However, the doctors declared him brought dead around 6.45 p.m.

Earlier, families and relatives of the victims started arriving at the site and entered into a heated argument with officials who were trying their best to undertake the rescue mission in a hostile terrain. While Mr. Vishnu, Mr. Saravanan and other officials were standing at a depth in the quarry and supervising the operation, another huge boulder crashed from the northern side of the quarry at 9.50 a.m., triggering panic. As the dust billowing from the quarry engulfed the entire pit, the Collector and the Superintendent of Police emerged from the quarry, along with others.

Assembly Speaker M. Appavu and Minister for Backward Class Welfare Rajakannappan visited the site in the evening and the injured at the hospital.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Tirunelveli Range) Pravesh Kumar supervised the operation on the site.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2022 12:32:20 am |