Amitava Banerjee, HT, 22 July 2016, DARJEELING: The torch in the cell phone of a young woman saved her and her sister’s lives after the four-storied dilapidated building where they lived collapsed on Friday night. The tragedy left seven dead and eight injured.
Shabana Parveen (25) had returned to Darjeeling, her maternal home, a month back to celebrate Eid with her parents and siblings. Four months ago, she had been married off and was residing in Bihar. “Last (Friday) night, around 11pm, after we had finished dinner, my sister and I went to our bedroom. I was talking to my husband on my cell phone when suddenly, the ground started shaking. I thought it was an earthquake. Suddenly, I saw the roof cave in and everything went dark. The torch of my cell phone suddenly switched on,” said Shabana.
Shabana and her sister, Sabina (15), huddled together under the debris. “We were totally paralysed with fear. We both started screaming frantically for help,” added Shabana. Her torch was still on.
The sisters lost count of time. “Suddenly, I heard the sound of digging. We prayed that people were searching for us. We started crying out for help. Slowly, the rubble was removed. My sister was pulled out first and then me. The rescuers found our location in the rubble seeing the beam of light from my cell phone torch,” said Shabana. The sisters had spent around 45 minutes under the rubble.
Alauddin Shah (25), who runs a curio shop in Darjeeling, was luckier. He survived the ordeal for more than seven hours buried under the debris. He was the last one to be pulled out alive at 6am on Saturday morning. He has been admitted to the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital but is not in a condition to talk.
All the children residing in this four-storied building had miraculous escapes. Ten-year-old Anjali Pariyar, seven-year-old Iba Parveen and her brother Faiyaz (2) were pulled out alive. While Pariyar and Faiyaz are undergoing treatment at the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital, Praveen has been shifted to a hospital in Siliguri.
The building was located at Dr Zakir Hussain Bustee in Darjeeling. It had three families residing on the three floors with the owners residing in a wooden attic.
Gulab Hussain (60) was also pulled out from the debris and is ailing at the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital. “I had just finished dinner and was getting ready to go to bed. I heard a loud sound and the earth began to shake. As I was trying to go out, the roof collapsed and everything went dark,” recounted Gulab.