50 hours and counting, ops on to save Surjith from borewell in Trichy

ONGC personnel have joined hands in rescue operations at the spot.

Even as the whole nation is celebrating Diwali, it is a dark day for the villagers and family members of two-year-old Surjith Wilson, at Nadukattupatti in Trichy’s Manaparai.

The two-year-old fell into a 600-ft borewell on Friday (October 27) evening while playing near his house. It’s been 50 hours since Surjith, without a morsel of food or a drop of water, has been stuck in the depths of the mud-laced borewell with a limited supply of oxygen. His initial wails have now turned into silence, although rescue workers hope he is fine and breathing.

Although six teams had been working at the spot since Friday evening, currently personnel of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have taken control of the rescue operation, relieving the other teams.

Specialised teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have also joined the rescue operations.

The situation turned grim on Saturday night, when the boy slipped further, from the 35 feet depth he was stuck earlier, to 98 feet, making rescue difficult. Rescue work on Sunday holds importance, as three workers will be sent down another 90-feet deep and one-metre wide borewell, which is being dug parallel to the other borewell, to rescue the child. The borewell which is being dug with the help of ONGC’s rig machine is 2 meters away from the well Surjit has fallen into. A steel pipe will be inserted into the new borewell to enable the rescue workers to go down. Another rig machine has been sent for, to be at the disposal of the rescue team in the case of an emergency.

The three fire and rescue personnel – Kannadasan, Dilipkumar and Manikandan – have been given appropriate training on rescue and breathing techniques to carry out the rescue operation inside the borewell. They will be equipped with oxygen cylinders and kit to dig the sidewalk to recover the child.

Health minister gives hope

“The efforts would require three to four hours,” said state health and family welfare minister C Vijayabaskar, who has been camping at the site since Friday night. Tourism Minister Vellamandi N Nagarajan is also present at the spot.

Four ambulances have been deployed at the spot. The child is being continuously supplied oxygen ever since he slipped into the well at 5.30 pm on Friday.

Speaking to reporters, Vijayabaskar said, “Till now we have dug 30 feet. Officials are handling the digging operation with extra care even if there is a delay. If we exert more force while drilling, the vibrations may endanger the kid as there are hard rocks in between. Machine capacity should also be taken into consideration. Blades are also cleaned often. The chief minister is constantly in touch with me and the officials on the site.”

Meanwhile, talking to reporters, Principal Secretary, Revenue Administration, Disaster Management and Mitigation department, J Radhakrishnan said modern equipment were being used in the rescue efforts. Noting that standard operating procedures were being followed, he said, “A parallel borewell is being dug.. efforts are on .. We have a technical team at the spot comprising officials from L&T, ONGC, Neyveli Lignite Corporation.”

Child unresponsive 

The minister, however, said there has been no response from the child since Saturday although his body temperature, measured with the help of a robotic camera is said to be normal.

“We are not able to see any movements from the child. A team from Anna University on Saturday checked his health and with a robotic camera were only able to check his body temperature and said it was normal. That was the only update we got,” he said.

Rescue personnel said rocks are causing a major hindrance in the digging process. The weather department has said that the sky will be clear on Sunday, which will enable the rescue work to go on smoothly.

“We could hear the child weeping… for a long time… but now we cannot hear. But we feel the child is safe and breathing,” the officials said. Authorities said they were unable to assess the boy’s condition because of the layers of wet mud around him.

“The biggest problem was the width of the borewell. Manapparai is a small town and so a mini-borewell with a diameter of four inches was dug. The boy’s head, with more or less the same diameter, has left no room for any equipment to reach him,” The Hindu quoted M Manikandan, who has designed a device specifically for such rescue operations, as saying on Saturday.

Saturday which witnessed high activity at the site, saw villagers thronging the spot to see the rescue operation.

Prayers pour in 

Prayers poured in from across the world with political leaders such as DMK president MK Stalin and AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran joining them in wishing that the boy was rescued at the earliest. While local mosques and churches held prayer sessions for Surjith, A Vinoth, a college student ran a marathon from Thanjavur.

Celebrities and politicians also joined thousands of people in praying for the well being of the boy.

Special prayers were performed for Surjith in Sathome Church, Chennai. Similarly, no Diwali celebrations in and around Manaparai. On Sunday afternoon, Indian National Congress (INC) member Rahul Gandhi through his twitter account, prayed for Surjith.

Indian cricketer, Harbhajan Singh, tweeted on Sunday morning.

Superstar Rajinikanth and actor-politician Kamal Hassan also expressed hope that the boy would be safely rescued. Speaking to reporters at his residence here, Rajinikanth said, “I pray for the safe rescue of the boy.” “Parents should take care of children and precautionery measures should have been taken,” he said. Actor-politician Kamal Haasan expressed concern over repeated incidents of children falling into defunct borewells. “Efforts to rescue the child who is in danger should succeed. The government should impose hefty fine on those who left borewells open,” he tweeted.

The photo that moved people was of Surjith’s mother Kalamary, stitching a rescue bag for her son despite her grief, after rescue personnel wanted to use a bag to pull the child.

According to officials, efforts to rescue the child included the use of modern equipment. Meanwhile, the district administration ordered that all open bore wells in the district be closed.

(With inputs from agencies)