Mahad tragedy: Excavator operator praised for ‘non-stop’ work

The operator Kishore Bhagwat Lokhande, 24, was praised for his work

Mumbai: An operator of a heavy-duty the excavator is being praised by the authorities and locals of Mahad town in Maharashtra’s Raigad district, as he has been working virtually non-stop to clear the debris of a building that collapsed on Monday evening, killing 15 people.

Although the authorities called off the rescue operation around 11.30 am on Wednesday, his work of removing the rubble from the site is still on.

The operator, Kishore Bhagwat Lokhande, 24, who stays with his parents and two siblings near the bus stand in Mahad, said he got a call on Monday evening from his office, asking him to rush to Kajalpura area as a five-storey building has collapsed.

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Raigad: Rescue personnel sift through the rubble in search of survivors at the site where a five-storey apartment building collapsed, in Mahad in Raigad district, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. The incident took place on Monday night. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)

“I was asked to operate a Poclain machine to remove debris from the site. Since then, my work is on and continues as a lot of debris is yet to be cleared from the site,” Lokhande told PTI.

“Since Monday, I have been helping the rescue teams to find bodies from the rubble. During this period, I got off the machine only around four times, either to attend the nature’s call or as some media persons wanted to click my photo,” he added.

He said he felt bad for the people who died in the tragedy.

“I feel sad that so many people died in the incident.

Raigad: Rescue personnel carry out search for survivors at the site, where a five-storey building collapsed, in Mahad in Raigad district, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. The incident took place on Monday night. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)

But I was very happy when the rescue teams pulled out a four-year-old boy alive from under the debris,” Lokhande said, adding that he helped the rescue teams in the recovery of at least 10 bodies.

The toddler and a 60-year-old woman were rescued on Tuesday. The bodies of 13 victims had been recovered till late on Tuesday night, while those of two others were found in the wee hours of Wednesday.

A police official called Lokhande the “real hero” for working “non-stop”.

Raigad: Rescue personnel sift through the rubble in search of survivors at the site where a five-storey apartment building collapsed, in Mahad in Raigad district, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. The incident took place on Monday night. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)

“He has been removing the debris for more than 30 hours. Besides Lokhande, his colleagues, who are operating other heavy-duty machines, like JCB and dumpers, are also being praised by the authorities for their work and for helping the rescue teams,” the official said.

Lokhande said that after watching the collapsed building, rubble and bodies of victims, he did not feel like eating much.

Raigad: NDRF personnel sift through the rubble in search of survivors at the site where a five-storey apartment building collapsed, in Mahad in Raigad district, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. The incident took place on Monday night. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)

“I ate only two samosas on Tuesday afternoon and ‘khichadi‘ at night. Due to the tragedy, I did not feel like eating much. Besides, I felt that I can use that time in the rescue operation,” he said.

Lokhande, who hails from Patoda in Beed district of Marathwada, said he came to Mumbai a few years ago in search of a job.

“I have been operating these machines since the last six years,” he said.

Lokhande said has been working for the Mumbai-Goa highway project since last few months.

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