Deepavali, the festival of lights was celebrated without much festivities on Sunday as people of Tamil Nadu fervently prayed for two-year-old Surjeet Wilson who continued his battle for life for the second day from the bottom of a borewell in Nadukattupatti village in Tiruchi district.
Undaunted, officials and Ministers made round the clock efforts to save him. But there was no light at the end of the tunnel, literally. Reflecting the sombre mood , Congress leader and former national president Rahul Gandhi in a tweet joined the # SaveSurjeet campaign.
He said:” While the nation celebrates Deepavali, in Tamil Nadu, a race against time is underway to save baby Surjeeth, who has been trapped in a borewell since Friday. I pray that he will be rescued & reunited with his distraught parents at the earliest”.
Prayers were held for the second day running in mosques and churches across Tamil Nadu, including Coimbatore and Ramanathapuram on Sunday Such was the impact of Surjeet’s struggle that Sri Lankan Minister for Tamils of Indian origin Velusamy Radhakrishnan said Depavali was not celebrated in Central Hills where plantation Tamils of Indian origin live.
Naturally Manaparai, a big big town next to Nadukattupatti village skipped Deepavali celebrations and kept a day and night vigil at the site of the tragedy, hampering even movement of trucks bringing heavy equipment from Ramanathapuram and Neyveli like rigs and drillers.
Health Secretary Radhakrishnan appealed to the people not to crowd around the rescue site as trucks carrying critical equipment were finding it difficult to steer through narrow village streets even otherwise.
Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar, who has been camping at the site since Friday night told reporters that digging a parallel well had been slowed down by hard rocks at a depth of 30 ft and below and blasting them would lead to more landslides, one of which had dragged the boy from 30 ft on the first day to almost 100 ft now .
He said candidly that though efforts were on, the boy was in a critical state and there was no sign of life, no sound of breathing since 5.30 a.m. on Saturday. Only his hands were visible above the mud. While oxygen was being pumped into the deep pit, high definition thermal cameras had been used to generate heat around the place where the boy was lying trapped, he said.
So far well up to a depth of 35 ft had been dug and it had to go further down up to 90 ft. It would take a few hours more, he said.
Deputy director of fire services Priya Ravichandran relieved chief Gandhidas on Sunday morning to take over supervision of the rescue. Once the parallel well is dug, the plan is to send a fireman for manual rescue. After he reaches the required depth, his job will be to dig a connecting horizontal tunnel to the adjacent well where the boy is trapped.
With each passing hour, a tender life was ebbing away and people were hoping against hope for a miracle.