Mumbai: 17 days later rescuers yet to find worker trapped in 60-foot-deep trench

14 June,2024 07:13 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Diwakar Sharma

Wife and kids have been visiting site at Sasunavghar daily in hope of a miracle; chief minister Shinde promises to rope in defence personnel

Sushila Yadav, who was in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh when she heard of the mishap


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The distraught wife of Rakesh Yadav, a 40-year-old worker who has been trapped along the excavating machine he had been operating in a 60-foot-deep trench at the Surya water supply project site in Sasunavghar near Versova bridge since May 29, wondered why he was sent to work in the "unprotected" and "rain-saturated" site if the authorities concerned were in no position to pull him out.

"This is pure hell. Why was my husband sent to work in such a situation? The authorities have been unable to rescue him for the past 17 days. Who had been monitoring the work at the construction site? I will not move from here until I see his bones," said Sushila Yadav, who - along with her children, brother and other relatives - boarded a Mumbai-bound train from her home town Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh after learning from one of Rakesh's co-workers that his life was in danger.

Rakesh Yadav, the worker who is trapped under tonnes of debris. Pics/Hanif Patel

"My husband last spoke to me around 8 pm on May 29, informing that everything fine. But at midnight, someone informed us about the incident. I could not believe it. I froze for a while but soon I decided to go to Mumbai. This is the first time I have been to the city," she told mid-day.

She goes to at the site every morning with her two pre-teen daughters and seven-year-old son. Together, they spend the entire day there and return to their shelter only around midnight to rest.

Chief Minster Eknath Shinde at the spot on Friday

"Every day, I visit to this site where my husband has been lying trapped under tonnes of debris since May 29. I don't know if he is alive or dead, but at least show me his bones, and I will accept whatever fate has in store for us," Sushila said in a choked voice.

The project

The MMRDA has undertaken the 403-MLD-capacity Surya Regional Water Supply Scheme to provide water to Mira-Bhayander and Vasai-Virar City Municipal Corporations and rental housing projects of MMRDA, including 27 villages within the western sub-region of MMR. The construction work at the accident site was being undertaken by Larsen & Toubro Ltd.

The trench at the Surya water supply project site in Sasunavghar

A co-worker has told Rakesh's relatives that a deep trench was being dug without reinforcing the trench wall and the moment Rakesh entered the trench on the fateful night, the "water-soaked unprotected wall collapsed and he got trapped under the debris".

Santosh Yadav, Sushila's brother, said, "I have been told that muck collapsed into the trench, even the container on which senior workers were monitoring the construction work at night collapsed. But these people were rescued."

A joint rescue operation was initiated by NDRF, local police and municipal corporation personnel. "But it was halted on June 9 after it started raining," said Santosh.
"After the rescue operation was stopped, we met Yadav community leaders in Mumbai and demanded to meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. But the CM preferred to meet us at the accident site on June 14. The moment authorities concerned learnt that Shinde was arriving, they restarted the rescue operation and the area was cleaned," Santosh added.

Shinde, who was busy with the Lok Sabha election campaign, results and swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, finally arrived at the accident site on the 17th day of the tragedy. He promised that defence personnel would be deployed to pull out Rakesh from the debris.

Wife's lament

"Today, advanced equipment is available so why is the government unable to rescue my husband? What are they waiting for? The children have been asking me, ‘Where is papa?' What should I tell them?" sobbed Sushila.

Sushila met her husband last in August 2023 when he left his native place for Mumbai to work.

Govind Bodake, the Palghar district collector, said that the family will be financially compensated by L&T Ltd. "The rescue operation was jointly conducted by the NDRF and contractor of L&T Ltd. But after rainfall, it was put to a halt. After making the structure stable, the operation has been restarted. Now, the Indian Army and Indian Navy have been called to assist in the rescue operation," Bodake said.

No legal action has been taken by the police till now. An officer at Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police said, "We have not received any complaint as of now. Also, our team has been closely monitoring developments at the accident site."

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