Even before authorities arrived for help after a massive fire broke out at Takshashila Complex in Surat, killing 20, some bravehearts were the first to offer help and aid in the rather risky situation. A few, like Ketan Chodvadiya, even risked their own lives to save others.
The 22-year old, Ketan, courageously climbed up the burning complex to help pull down students stuck on the top floor of Takshashila Complex.
On Friday, Ketan was on his way home when he saw the fire and decided to stop and help. He first went to the rear end where the fire had actually started and pulled out younger kids from there, who he saw were crying for help. He then went to the front where he climbed till the second floor with the help of a ladder and began helping the students by pulling them out of the smoke engulfed complex.
The training to not fear heights seems to have come from the ‘curfew’ his father clamped at home, which forced him to climb into the house, if he got delayed.
“Saving people’s life is one’s duty as a human. I believe I will do it any day without fear. When I reached there, I saw smoke and fire. Around 300 people had gathered there but the fire brigade was yet to arrive, Ketan said. “I first went to the back of the building where I saw children stuck. I used a ladder and pulled out as many of them I could. I then went to the front side.” He climbed to the spot where he was seen in the video, with the help of a ladder. “One student fell down. I couldn’t catch her. I could see her lying dead and I can’t forget the sight. I will always regret that I couldn’t save her but I am happy I could help around eight to 10 students escape safely,” Ketan said.
His family says they didn’t fear anything when they came to know that their son had risked his life to save the students, because he has always been a daredevil. His father Naranbhai said, “I have a rule that everybody should come home before 10:30 pm, but he is young and at times comes home late. I lock the door after 10 and don’t open it at all. But he climbs up the two-storeyed bungalow and enters through the gallery. He is skilled that way and we are proud of him for saving the lives.”
A B Com graduate, Ketan is now helping his father at his factory in Kamrej which produces disposable dinnerware. This is not the first time he has been a hero in a moment of crisis. “As an eight-year-old, when floods hit Surat (in 2006), he had also helped us pack and distribute food packets as relief items for those in need. There was no water in our society so we would step out to help others, and he would always accompany us, not fearing anything,” his father said.
Apart from Ketan, many people from nearby societies and complexes also extended help in the rescue. People from his society, which is right behind Takshashila Complex, also provided bed sheets to wrap the charred bodies recovered from the top floor.
Praful Dobaria, who owns a consultancy firm in the very next complex, said, “We have fire control equipment in our complex. When the fire broke out and we saw smoke we tried to use the equipment. It is a small capacity water spray equipment. We knew it was not enough to douse the flaring fire but we had to do something,” he said.
At SMIMER hospital, over 160 people donated blood between Friday night and Saturday. “We didn’t have a requirement for blood as such. But people kept pouring in,” a hospital official said.