Thousands in Delhi out on a busy Wednesday morning watched on with mixed reactions as authorities fanned out across the city to conduct a mega mock drill for earthquake emergencies.
Some were amused,some awed and a few troubled as disaster management authorities swarmed malls,offices,Metro stations,hospitals and schools for a dry run to check rescue preparedness for an earthquake.
At the busy AIIMS Metro station,repeated public announcements about the drive ensured that the staff and commuters knew what to expect when an alarm went off at 11.30 am,triggering a flurry of activity.
For the next half-an-hour,during which train services were suspended and entry to the station closed,Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Delhi Police personnel demonstrated safety operation.
Sarthak,a second-year engineering student,said,This should be done more often. But the rescue personnel should also involve us in the action,instead of just demonstrating it.
Rescuers from the Delhi Civil Defence,a voluntary organisation that specialises in disaster management operations,Delhi Fire Services and the Delhi government pitched in with first-aid equipment and other paraphernalia.
For some,the commotion and the sight of those posing as injured being taken on stretchers proved a little too much. Jahnvi,a 25-year-old housewife,complained,The entire operation seemed so real that I got scared and now I feel giddy.
At the Scope Tower in Laxmi Nagar,the drill was not all a mock exercise. A portion of the false ceiling caught fire on the fifth floor,and had Fire Services personnel running in to put out the flames. Fire officials said they were not sure what triggered the fire,but no casualty was reported.
At the Select Citywalk mall in Saket,hundreds of shoppers and store staff were evacuated within 10 minutes after the alarm went off at 11.30 am. Susanna Wicks,a 24-year-old Delhi University student,was impressed. Ive lived in India for two-and-a-half years but never saw anything like this before, she said.
At the Municipal Corporation of Delhis headquarters,the Civic Centre,many occupants of the 28-storey building complained of breathing troubles as controlled fire and smoke was used during the drill. I have asthma and this could have proved dangerous for me as I was unable to breath, said an employee.
The mock drill highlighted shortcomings in preparedness at the MCD HQ. Despite calls for ambulances,it took agencies nearly half-an-hour to carry the mock injured to the hospital.
The reporters are students of Express Institute of Media Studies,New Delhi