THE 35-FOOT wall that collapsed early Tuesday in Pimpri Pada lay in the form of large pieces of concrete on Thursday. About 30-feet wide portion of the wall, adjoining the collapsed part, which leaned precariously until Wednesday, too had been brought down by the workers of BMC’s building department and the fire brigade.
A part of the same 35-feet tall wall that protected the Malad Hill Reservoir from encroachment, which collapsed at Ambedkar Nagar about 500-600 m away, was being pestled into fragments of concrete and a bunch of iron rods by two JCB machines since Thursday morning.
With 22-year-old Sonali Sakpal still missing, a JCB machine dug through the vestiges of what was a sprawling slum on the Ambedkar Nagar hillock. It had to be taken away for refueling, a fireman said.
Local residents, who had aided in the search for the missing since disaster hit, felt frustrated. Saket Dalvi, who works as a driver, said, “She has to be here somewhere. We have been looking at this spot and down the hill too. We can’t give up until she is found.”
He and a bunch of others, sporting T-shirts, shorts and rubber slippers, gave an account of how they had been at it for nearly 72 hours. “Everytime we reached under the debris and the soil, we felt an electric current at first. It was raining. We had to switch off the power supply to continue looking for more missing people on Tuesday,” said Dalvi.
Rajendra Nirgude, Dalvi’s friend, added: “We rescued one man who was being swept away by the water. Another was crushed under his own furniture. When we pulled him out, he told us his sister is also trapped… this was when we realised there could be more people trapped under the debris. We even found a mother with her arms wrapped around her child. They were both dead.”
Various religious organisations and political parties continued to supply food to the two disaster spots. Many survivors now homeless, had taken refuge in the homes of their neighbours. While the BMC’s clinic at the bottom of the hillock catered to those in need of first aid and treatment for common ailments, many saw the threat that the rain and the colossal debris piles posed.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner of P-north (Malad) ward, Sanjog Kabare, said: “The removal of debris from the wall collapse site will start only after search and rescue operation is over. Also, we are taking measures to prevent any disease outbreak in the area. Fumigation and anti-fly treatment is being done.”
On Thursday, fire officers deployed at Pimpri Pada caught their breath and awaited further orders.
“We don’t have anything left to do here since all the people from this site are accounted for,” said a fireman. The search and rescue operation will be declared over only after ensuring that no one is inside the debris, said an officer from the BMC’s disaster management cell.
While officials from the Kurar police continue to patrol the disaster sites and aid locals, senior Inspector Udaykumar Rajeshirke said that the search and rescue operation will continue till Sonali Sakpal is found.
At Pimpri Pada, however, the wall collapse site was opened for locals, who returned to salvage their belongings. Three women shoveled into the rubble hoping to find something of value, others examined things like drum lids, wires and broken furniture parts soaked by the rain on Thursday.