In an exclusive interview with team JFW, fire officer Priya Ravichandran, the deputy director, Central Region, Trichy opens up about the 4-day operations her rescue team conducted and what actually happened on the field.
No child’s play
“I understand that there was a loss of life but the effort put behind this to save the child was really tremendous,” says officer Priya.
“We received a call at around 5 PM with regards to Sujith’s fall. We rushed there as soon as we could. We found the child at a depth of 24 feet initially. But, there’s something one needs to understand, no one has got expertise in this field. There is not enough technology for a bore well rescue anywhere around the world and not just here. So, the team comes up with innovative ideas depending on the severity of the situation, the position of the child, depending on the soil of the bore well and the diameter of the bore well and many other influencing factors,” says the officer.
She further adds, “We have to come up with improvised ideas on the spot. We have carried out around 12 bore well rescue operations. It’s a very confined space and they are very small kids. It’s not like there is a huge device that would for sure rescue the child.”
Prevention is best
Talking about how these kinds of incidents could be prevented, Priya talks about how the team jumps into action immediately no matter what. “Tamil Nadu is the only state today to have earned an improvised bore well equipment. Going by the saying “something’s better than nothing’, with great research and approvals from experts, we have five bore well equipment placed at each region.”
“We borrowed that equipment from Villupuram and Madurai district and until that came in, we went ahead with some of our innovative methods. When we went in at 24 feet, the child was visible and his hands were folded upwards. The team wanted to try and get hold of the hands that were facing upwards by tying a knot. But, unfortunately, we were not able to pull him out at all, he was stuck,” she adds.
“We did everything we could, literally.”
Priya adds, “Many volunteers came forward with their own equipment, basically anything that could help save the child in any which way possible. Meanwhile, we had already begun operations with our available equipment. But, the 7-year-old bore well was extremely out of shape and unpredictable. It was a wet surface further down and the child kept sliding down – there were numerous challenges. We then began digging a pit in the side but that did not work either because it was a huge rocky surface. All these began building extreme pressure on team”
“Everyone there had only one intention and that is to save the child somehow. We then came up with another idea and began drilling a parallel bore. But, there were huge hard rocks that even the best of best top-quality drilling machines that came in couldn’t crack. It took hours to dig a three feet depth, the rocks were just almost unbreakable,” she says.
We were away from social media
Officer says that there were 150 men from various rescue teams present and all they did day and night was give in their everything to rescue the child. “We were totally cut off from the media. We would hardly even take restrooms or refreshments break. We just wanted to rescue the child, that was our only focus and not get overwhelmed by all the negativity going on. We were terribly concerned. Only we knew what the ground reality was. We were extremely coordinated and it was a huge team effort.”
Talking about the men who went into the parallel bore to rescue the child, she adds, “We knew the surface was rocky but figured those would be layered rocks. These rocks, however, were very hard to grind. We thought we would dig the bore up to 90 feet and send our men in to manually break the rocks and go further ahead. These brave fighters were risking their lives too. There would hardly be any oxygen left 90-feet deep down but we were prepared for it and a team was getting trained too for that. Continuous oxygen support was being given to the child and was being watched on camera but, we did everything we could in our power and more,” concludes fire officer Priya.