With hopes of a miracle, efforts on to rescue child (Lead)

October 11th, 2008 - 11:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Sushil KumarAgra, Oct 11 (IANS) Over 60 hours after two-and-a-half-year-old Sonu fell into a 150-foot deep borewell in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra district, there was no sign of his movement Saturday evening but rescue efforts were still on, with hopes of a “divine intervention”.The boy had fallen into the narrow pit in Leharkapura village near Agra while playing at 10 a.m. Thursday.

“It will take supernatural intervention to keep him alive for so long. He is just two-and-a-half years old. How could he survive in that damp and dark hole for so long?” Ramesh, a villager, asked.

“The rescue operation is just a formality now to satisfy public sentiments,” another villager added.

Army personnel led by Captain Kulwinder Singh were struggling since morning to breach a shaft, but mounds of earth caved in on three occasions, delaying the rescue operation.

Angry villagers waiting at the site shouted slogans against the administration, alleging the officials were not making full efforts. Police had to use batons to disperse villagers crowding the site.

“The operation has been delayed because the earth keeps falling off. For the bigger machines, we needed more open space so the land had to be cleared,” an official at the site said.

Excavators and other earthmoving equipment were deployed to dig a parallel tunnel and army personnel were trying desperately to reach out to the toddler.

Officials said oxygen was being pumped in and an ambulance had been stationed near the site.

However, Sonu’s mother has alleged that rescue workers were slow and could have “speeded up” operations. “If they had been serious and speeded up the work perhaps Sonu’s ordeal could have been cut short,” she said Friday.

While Sushil Kumar, superintendent engineer of the water supply board, has ordered an inquiry, villagers were outraged that the borewell had been left open following a dispute between a contractor and board engineers.

In response to public ire, the administration has suspended two board officials and ordered an inquiry. The contractor, Sanjeev Kumar, has been blacklisted.

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