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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The ‘hero’ of Chiplun floods recalls nine-hour nightmare atop state transport bus

Rajeshirke, 6 colleagues felicitated by state transport minister

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: July 30, 2021 8:45:04 pm
Transport Minister Anil Parab felicitated ST depot manager Ranjit Rajeshirke. (Express Photo)

FORTY-six-year-old Ranjit Rajeshirke, depot manager with the Chiplun State Transport depot, was among the seven employees felicitated by state Transport Minister Anil Parab on Wednesday for their “heroic act” which helped the transport undertaking save Rs 9 lakh in cash.

Caught in the middle of the extremely heavy rain and flood that hit Chiplun last week, Rajeshirke and his colleagues survived nine terrifying hours holding on to the cash on the roof of ST buses.

On July 22, when water from a swollen Vashishti river started entering Chiplun town, the state transport bus depot was also submerged in water.

“That day, I got a call from my colleagues saying river water had entered the depot. I quickly rushed to the depot. We parked some of the buses away from the flooded area. Then we collected the available cash in an iron box,” said Rajeshirke.

Rajeshirke said he and his colleagues then tried to leave the flooded depot but couldn’t do so as the water levels had risen to 10-15 feet. “To save ourselves, two of us climbed on the roof of one of the ST buses while five other colleagues climbed on the roof of another bus,” he said.
But soon, the water level rose almost to the top of the two buses. “The water level was rising and it was raining continuously. Both of us were finding it difficult to hold on to the sack, which too was drenched. We were worried that we would lose our grip on the sack due to the force of the water,” he said.

In the meantime, their colleagues in the depot contacted the Chiplun police station, and its personnel reached the spot with two nylon ropes. “Two of our colleagues, with the help of a tube, swam up to us and assured us that we would be rescued by the police team,” said Rajeshirke.

“… Until then, a sense of fear had gripped all of us. We were trying to console and comfort each other. The thought of whether we will survive made us tense…. but we kept chatting and lending support to each other. Our family members who got to know that we were stranded on top of the bus kept calling our colleagues out of shock… all through the nine hours, we could not even get a glass of water to drink,” said Rajeshirke.

Meanwhile, even for the police personnel, the task of reaching the stranded staff on top of the bus was a difficult one. The police team had to tie the ropes to electricity poles and then reach up to the bus. “Had it not been for the police, we would not have survived. It was the police personnel who came up with the idea of tying the rope to poles and reaching out to the bus. With the help of the ropes, we managed to reach a safe spot. It was not easy to hold on to the rope and the sack of cash amid the swirling water, but somehow we managed,” he said.

Rajeshirke, who has two children, hails from a village near Chiplun town. He has been with the state transport agency for 25 years.

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