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A lunch get-together that turned fatal

Thirteen of 30 Army soldiers killed in Himachal building collapse

WT24 Desk

An outpass issued to 30 Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) of Assam Rifles for lunch outside their Dagshai cantonment became a catalyst for the death of 13 of them when the restaurant where they had gathered for lunch collapsed on Sunday, The Hindustan Times reports.

The soldiers were believed to have gathered to celebrate the promotions of their colleagues.

Senior Subedar Balwinder Singh, now dead in building collapse tragedy, had taken permission for travelling out of the cantonment, it was found.

A special army vehicle had them to the Sehaj Tandoori Dhaba, a four-storey building on the Kumarhatti-Nahan road, approximately four km from the cantonment.

One of the surviving soldiers who did not wish to be named, said there was a huge noise just as he stepped out of the building before the lunch was to be served.

“Suddenly there was no building behind my back. There was screaming all around. Eight to ten jawans were immediately rescued as neighbours came to help with ladders and other things. Few more who were towards front side of the building were later taken out with some injuries along with other civilians when rescue teams reached. But it was too late for 13 soldiers who were crushed under the heavy concrete slabs,” he said.

Subedar Raj Kishore who was the first one to be taken out was declared dead after being taken to a nearby private hospital.

The body of Subedar Balwinder Singh was retrieved around midnight. In next three hours early Monday morning, rescuers retrieved the bodies of Subedar Vinod, Subedar Ajit Kumar, Subedar Pardeep Chand and Naib Subedar Yogesh.

Rescue operation slowed down later due to the inability of the NDRF teams to cut through the concrete slabs. It was only after 8 am when Subedar Vishwer Singh’s body was retrieved.

The bodies of five other JCOs- Subedar Hem Homang, Naib Subedar M. Naubin, Subedar Kumar Chaurahi, Subedar Surjeet Sharma and Subedar Rajan Bhadur- were pulled out in quick succession between 12 pm and 1 pm after rescue teams cleared some of the debris.

Rescue operations ended at 3 pm Monday after the army pulled out the body of Subedar Lal Sans.

A pall of gloom engulfed the entire area after the building collapse. A local area resident Sudhir Sharma said, “Our Jawans don’t deserve to die like this. This is shocking and will not be forgotten for long.”

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