Through the personal prism
Ordinary people connected to some of 2011’s key events speak out
‘The hospital looked like a battlefield’
Tarun Mukherjee on saving people in
“Though it was the first week of December, winter was yet to show its true colors in Kolkata. Something woke me up around 4 am, before
dropping off to sleep again, I switched on the television.
News of the AMRI fire was all over.
Tarun Mukherjee saved many lives at Kolkata’s AMRI Hospital fire, December 8
and I lent a helping hand.
I decided to march along with the firemen. The hospital
looked like a battlefield.
The floors were littered with broken glasses, clothes,
medical equipment, fire extinguishers, oxygen cylinders,
patient suits etc.
Most of the people that we could rescue were in a semi-
conscious stage. Carbon monoxide had almost engulfed
their senses. We made stretchers out of cotton bedsheets
and ferried them out of the burning hole. This way, we car-
ried about 35-odd people out safe. They were then put in
ambulances and transferred to other hospitals.
I felt slightly better now. After all, all these people were
alive and breathing.
Little did I know what was in store. As we approached the
other storeys, they looked like tombs. There was an eerie
silence. Corpses lay still on beds, oxygen masks, ventilator,
other medical gadgets et al. They must have had painless
deaths, I told myself.
Most of the bodies had turned black by now and were
bloated. Along with the firemen and other volunteers, I
brought out about 55 bodies. Some of the kin of the
deceased were sobbing hysterically.
My eyes moistened. But that was not the time to mourn.
There were numerous other bodies inside. I turned around
quickly and now reached the third storey with other res-
The number of bodies that we found here were much
more than we had expected.
Some of the corpses were charred beyond recognition.
Some police officers, who were part of the rescue team,
offered me water. I drank a few drops, pulled myself
together and resumed my ‘work’.
I was at the site till 8.30 am. A sense of helplessness was
eating me up. I wished I had been here earlier. Maybe I
could have rescued more people.
As told to Indrani Mitra
‘I looked at my left hand, which was bleeding profusely’
Varsha Karia, a student, suffered injuries in the Mumbai blasts
“Everyone remembers that day. There was a blast and everyone ran helter-skelter. Some said it
sounded like a gas cylinder explosion; oth-
ers said it sounded like a bomb should —
loud and deafening. But I remember it dif-
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