Chennai: It was high drama at Central Railway Station on Monday, after a 24-year-old man from Nepal, suspected to be mentally-ill, climbed atop the landmark clock tower and held on to a flagpole-cum-lightning conductor for over five hours. It was around 3 pm when railway officials spotted a man atop the clock tower. After an attempt by police to rescue the man, who locked the latch to the roof, turned futile, fire and rescue personnel from the Vepery and High Court fire stations were drafted around 3.30 pm to bring down the man.
The rescue personnel then tried to coax the man, offering him chicken biriyani and water through a small opening, hoping that he would eventually tire out. “When he asked for it, we gave him another plate of briyani. We even promised to get him a good job and buy him whatever he wanted,” a fire and rescue official said. However, the refreshment seemed to have only replenished him as he proceeded to climb up the flagpole on the roof.
Meanwhile, the seven-member fire and rescue service team, waited on a narrow ladder leading up to the roof. They then began to break open the asbestos roofing and managed to make it to the roof, even as the man dangled on the flagpole. He stayed there for over three hours, changing positions often, while the firemen, on wits end, stood around the pole trying to bring him down.
As all efforts failed, a Bronto skylift, which could extend up to a height of around 54 metres, was brought from the Teynampet station around 5.30 pm. However, there was reportedly no expert to operate the skylift. The rescue personnel struggling to operate the skylift, as sources complained that operators, who knew to handle it, were either retired or training juniors at Tambaram.
An hour passed and eventually, a skylift operator, Arogyasamy, who was reportedly on his way home after providing training for juniors at Tambaram, arrived at the spot. Finally, after over five hours, the firemen hopped on to the skylift and pulled the man to safety around 6.50 pm.
Even as the rescue efforts were on, hundreds of spectators — passengers, railway officials and staff from offices around Central station — gathered around the clock tower. Some even offered suggestions. “Nobody is listening to me. We can splash water on him and hold a net beneath to catch him if he falls,” said an elderly onlooker.Another man, who seemed to be tipsy, said he could be rescued with a helicopter. The onlookers made a mad dash to click the image of the man on their phones.
Railway police, who identified the man as Rupan (24) from Nepal, said they would register a case of attempt to suicide against him. Rupan climbed atop the tower around 1.30 pm as the entry was not locked, officials said, while adding that it was being maintained by a private contractor. Rupan came here to find a job. He ended up at Central Station after being chased by a group for pelting stones at them, sources said.