4:15 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

Girl, 8, washed away in Bangalore drain

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BANGALORE: An eight-year-old girl was washed away in a drain along Bannerghatta Raod, Bilekahalli, south-east Bangalore, during heavy rain on Monday. Geetha had come to the city from Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore for Dasara holidays and was staying with her aunt Lakshmi, a resident of Dore sanipalya. The accident occurred between 7.30pm and 7.45pm about 2km after Jaya deva hospital flyover and 200 metres before IIM-Bangalore on Bannerghatta Road, Mico Layout police said. With rainwater flooding the road and the pavement, the child could not make out the drain.

The primary drain was apparently overflowing and the girl is suspected to have stepped into one of the gaps between slabs covering the drain, and sank into swirling waters.

BBMP sources said the slabs had been removed as the pavement was being relaid and the drain was being desilted. Locals said the work was under way, but the area hadn’t been barricaded. The child was holding Lakshmi’s hand when she stepped into an opening and was sucked into the drain.Lakshmi raised an alarm and passersby rushed to her help.Eyewitnesses said a passerby managed to hold the girl by her hair, but the child slipped away in gushing waters.

The drain was about four feet deep and its opening four feet wide. Fire brigade was summoned and the entire length of the drain was checked for the girl. All efforts went in vain.

“For anyone walking on the road or footpath, differentiating between the two is difficult during rain. In such a case, gaps in the drain cover the drain cover are just not visible. The girl stepped into this gap on the footpath,” Raghu, a local, said.

The fire control room received a call from a passerby at 8.29pm. Private firm employee Keerthi N, who made the call, said he was passing by when he saw the crowd around the drain.”Everyone was frantically searching for the girl. Some even got into the drain wherever it was open and scoured it with hands,” he said.

Fire department officials said a rescue vehicle was dispatched from Jayanagar fire station. Before the firemen came in, people started getting into the drain to search for the girl.However, they could do little as the slabs covering the drain obstructed their movement. Soon two earthmovers were called in and they started removing the slabs and firemen searched for the girl.

The search for the girl was on past midnight. With the water in the drain receding and running a few inches deep, the girl remained untraced. BBMP officials at the spot said the drain spans a length of one km before leading to the Agara lake. They said the entire stretch of the drain would be scoured before shifting to the lake to locate the girl.

Lakshmi, elder sister of Geetha’s father Shankar, fell unconscious at the spot and was rushed to hospital.

The drain, Bilekahalli ward corporator Roopa Ramesh said, had been covered with slabs earlier. “…Recently, following re quests from residents, the slabs were removed to carry out desilting work as the drain was blocked,” she said.

But heavy rain in the past couple of days and a long holiday meant that the de-silting work was pending and contractors hadn’t even bothered to place the slabs back. Roopa said that the drain technically falls under her neighbouring Puttenahalli ward. “But this is not the time to blame anyone. We will have to take collective responsibility as this is a matter of a girl’s life, which is why I am at the spot,” she said.

L Ramesh, the corporator of Puttenahalli ward, was not reachable. He is not in Bangalore, Roopa said.

BBMP chief, minister blame girl’s relative

Reacting to the incident, BBMP Commissioner M Lakshminarayana said: “…If the lady who was with the girl had exercised patience for about 15 minutes, nothing would’ve happened. This is not an isolated place, there are so many buildings with sun shades, and they could have taken shelter under that. Instead, without taking any precaution, she decided to take the child in pouring rain, when water was gushing at a great speed.”

On why the drain was left open and the BBMP had not taken any precaution to warn people, he said: “I understand that this is an unfortunate incident. Even if we cordoned off the area, who would stand in this rain to tell people that the slabs aren’t there. This area must have recorded a lot of rainfall in the past two hours. Some precaution from the lady with the girl would’ve prevented it.”

Ramalinga Reddy, Bangalore in-charge minister, told TOI: “People should not walk out during the rains, especially when it is so heavy. I was told that the lady accompanying the girl was even talking on the phone. People should take precautions, this entire area is a slope and the problem of drains getting filled with water is common, people should be more careful.”

On isn’t the government responsible for leaving a drain open, he said: “The local MLA (Sathish Reddy) has told me that the drain was closed. We’ve learnt that some builder in the vicinity has opened it for drain connection. I’ve spoken to the BBMP commissioner and we will identify the builder, investigation into that angle is on.”

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