When a baby was rescued 6 days after Killari quake

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Sunday, 30 September 2018

An 18-month-old baby was buried under debris after a massive quake rocked the State on Sept 30, 1993

PUNE: Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all darkness. Well, this was entirely true when exactly 25 years ago (September 30, 1993) Priya Jawalge, an 18-month-old baby, stayed alive under the debris for five days after an earthquake hit Killari village near Latur, until she was recovered by Lt Colonel Sumit Bakshi. Nine members of her family were killed in the disaster.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale, struck in the middle of the night on September 30, 1993, devastating hundreds of villages from Latur and Osmanabad districts. Apparently, it was Ganesh Chaturdashi (Ganesh immersion) day and the entire State was in celebration mood when the tragedy struck. In a small hamlet near the epicentre of the quake, Killari, was Mangur, where an 18-month-old baby was buried under the debris. But her father’s firm belief and hope probably kept the baby alive. And today, she is trying to shape up the lives of the children from nearby villages.

While talking to Sakal Times from her village near Latur, Priya said, “I was just 18 months old, so I do not remember anything. But I know about the miracle only through my family and other village members. My mother was second time pregnant and I was an infant. It was a night in September when I was sleeping beside my mother and my cousins. My grandparents, uncles, aunts and their children died while I and my mother somehow survived. My father went outside when the earth started shaking. But within seconds, the entire house collapsed and my family members got buried under the debris. “Somehow, my father pulled my mother out and rushed her to the hospital. And came back to take me out. Entire village told him that all the members of his family had died, as they have dug out their bodies, but my father was steadfast and refused to believe them,” said Priya.

It was the sixth day from the incident, but my father did not lose hope. This hope met with an angel, Lt Bakshi, who had come there as part of the rescue team. My father Venkatrao requested him to search for me in our house under the debris,” she said.

Lt Bakshi patiently listened to him and started pulling out the stones, pillars and other materials. So far, many bodies of human beings and animals were taken out from the spot. But still, Lt Bakshi continued when he suddenly saw some activity under the debris. He tried hard and pulled out what he saw and it was me,” she said.

First thing I uttered was water. I wanted to have water. But that was the moment when my father knew no bounds to his happiness. His belief kept me alive and today, I work as a teacher at Emanuel Public School,” she said.

Married now, Priya has vowed to help people no matter what the circumstances are. All I believe is in God and humanity,” she said.

Now, Lt Colonel Sumit Bakshi, who was the first person to take her out of the debris, said, “I could not forget that incident, as it has got inked in my mind. I gave her this name Priya. Actually, my group was assigned for the rescue operation in Mangrur. It was my first duty and we were deployed from Hyderabad to carry out the work.

“I along with my group was having lunch when Venkatrao came to us crying and requested us to check out for the body of his little girl. My group captain told him to wait till we finish lunch. Many teams already had dug out at his house but couldn’t find anything. Even a team from Switzerland searched but had no luck. I felt something about him and I left my lunch and went with him. I was young and had a very slim body then. I went under the debris and spread both my hands under it to check whether I could find anything. After a while, I saw something soft and warm followed by a frail cough. I cleared the area and took out this little girl. I shouted saying I found the baby and she is alive and tears started rolling down,” said Lt Col Bakshi.

“As soon as I told this to my colleague, he informed her father and other villagers. The news spread like a wildfire. The villagers were so happy that they took out a procession carrying me on their head. 

During the procession, we met the then chief minister Sharad Pawar, who shook hands with me and congratulated me. I received the Chief of Army Commandant card from the Army for my feat,” he added.

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