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Rediff.com  » News » Searching for heroes? Look no further

Searching for heroes? Look no further

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Last updated on: July 28, 2005 12:40 IST

Dark clouds, bad weather and rising water could not prevent some of the most courageous and determined people of this city from saving several others stranded on the upper level of a BEST bus on one of those days which easily get into the annals of history.

These men and women did just about everything in their power to rescue over a hundred passengers marooned by torrential rain close to the Kurla bus depot in northern Mumbai.

The commuters' gruelling 16-hour ordeal began on Tuesday evening and ended on Wednesday morning.

The incident proved to be a mind-boggling, backbreaking event -- not just for those on the bus but also for those desperately trying to rescue them.

What the police and fire service personnel could not do after being asked to help, locals in the vicinity did without being requested.

It all started with a mail to rediff.com from Gopa in Nagpur on Tuesday.

The mail said: 'please do something. my younger sister and more than 100 people are in a double decker BEST bus near the Bandra Kurla Complex bus depo. They are unable to call from their mobiles. I called my sister with great difficulty. The water has filled the first floor of the bus and they are all stuck.'

After ascertaining the appeal was genuine, we posted it on the site, requesting readers for help.

Also, simultaneous attempts were made to get the fire brigade, the police, the Coast Guard and various other organisations into this rescue act.

We called 101 and spoke to a fire brigade employee, whose response was, "There are so many cases like this in the city. Our vehicles are all on the streets."

While at some places, the call wasn't even answered, there were other places where personnel simply expressed the lack of resources for being unable to effect a rescue. Then there were also those people who would give us numbers that wouldn't work.
 
With rains thrashing the city mercilessly and water levels rising steadily, the fear that water would flood the second level of the bus always existed.

It was at this point that people like Nirvan and Sucharitha called us to let us know they wanted to help.

Each contributed his or her bit. Nirvan asked for the exact location of the bus. He tried to organise a rescue, without apparent success. He went to the extent of getting some of his colleagues and moving to the spot to rescue them. As the water level was up to the neck, it was given up. However, he and other people with him like Santosh did everything they could including calling up the authorities and trying to put together a mission.

They tried to swim their way to the fire station to compel personnel there to somehow effect a rescue.

When they realised that all the fire service personnel were out trying to help people, they decided to purchase tubes from a shop nearby to help people swim away from danger. However, that plan failed.

While they were out there doing their bit, we, at rediff, did ours. This correspondent kept informing those on the bus about  the situation and reassured them that though it seemed like nobody was worried, people were actually trying to help them. We also kept constantly trying to reach the authorities of various departments throughout the night in a bid to hasten the rescue. We also tried to keep worried relatives informed of what we understood was going on.

But the day belonged to local residents, who, without being asked, had kept a watch on the water level throughout the night.

In the morning, when the rain slackened, the locals ferried every single person on that bus to the nearby Kurla depot.

Not one life was lost in the end, thanks to the city's unsung heroes.

K R Manigandan in Mumbai
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