For over 36 hours Prema Unakal, a 36-year-old marketing representative was trapped with her eight-year-old daughter Divya under the debris after an under-construction building collapsed in Dharwad. The collapse, which occurred on Tuesday, has claimed 15 lives so far.
Prema, an employee with Vestige Marketing Pvt Ltd, had an office in the building. On March 19 she had taken her daughter to work as the little girl had summer vacation and could not be left at home.
Prema's aunt Siddavva told TNM that as soon as the building collapsed, Prema fell unconscious and woke up a while later. She soon began looking for her daughter, whose hands were visible from underneath a pillar. “The debris had fallen on her (Prema's) body and not on her head. It took her 45 minutes to get the debris off her. She then began pushing the pillar and after a few hours, she managed to free her daughter,” the aunt says.
Minutes after Prema freed her daughter, another pillar, which was resting precariously on the debris collapsed and fell on the little girl. Prema once again took hours to free her daughter. By then the little girl was screaming with pain. Prema held on to her daughter for over 24 hours under the debris, the aunt says.
“She held her daughter and tried to escape. Prema and her daughter were stuck between pillars and the debris. For 36 hours they did not have any food and water and in a parched state, Prema tried to stay awake to ensure that Divya was also alive,” Siddavva adds.
By midnight on March 20, Divya had stopped crying, and both mother and daughter fell unconscious. On the afternoon of March 20, Prema woke up to the noise of the earth movers and the rescue operations being carried out by the NDRF team.
“She began screaming for help. When the rescue team reached her, she insisted that Divya be rescued first but the team pulled her out and rushed her to the hospital. Divya was dead when her body was found,” Sidavva adds.
Sidavva says that Prema has sustained grievous injuries on her arms, legs and torso and is currently unable to move. “She would fall in and out of sleep and whenever she woke, she would call out for Divya for a while. She would cry out for her and then fall back into sleep. She held her daughter for over 24 hours and when she was being taken to the hospital, she kept telling the people in the ambulance that her daughter is alive. We have not yet told her that Divya has passed away,” Sidavva says.
The Dharwad Suburban Police arrested Vivek Pawar, the architect, from a lodge in Kolhapur past midnight on Friday. The owners of the building Ravi Basavaraj Sabarad, Basavaraj D Nigadi, Gangappa S Shintri and Mahabaleshwar Puradagudi surrendered to the police late on Thursday night. They will be produced before a magistrate on Friday.