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Darkness, despair, death
- Casualty rerun in children's hospital

Biswaroopa Ghosh, gasping for breath, died unattended shortly after BC Roy Memorial Hospital for Children was plunged into dark despair early on Monday. She was 10 days old.

It was a re-run of chaos and casualty at the state's biggest referral hospital for children when a 6 KV feeder line from CESC's Kankurgachhi distribution centre tripped, causing a power failure for an hour-and-a-half. The Narkeldanga hospital has no alternative supply line.

In August 2002, 12 children had died in 72 hours. On Monday, three children died in just under 10 hours.

The entire hospital plunged into darkness around 3.25 am and the ailing children, put up in cramped conditions, gasped for breath for an hour-and-a-half before power supply was restored around 5 am.

Seema Ghosh, who was in ward number seven with her baby daughter Biswaroopa, cried out for help. But help was not at hand.

'It was totally dark and nobody knew even where the candles were kept' I was so scared for my daughter, who had stopped moving around 4 am, half-an-hour after the power failure,' cried Seema.

Biswaroopa had been admitted at 9.30 pm on Sunday with septicaemia and related history of birth asphyxia.

As Seema realised that her daughter was not moving at all, she kept calling for help. 'But it was only after the power supply was restored that the doctors declared her dead,' mourned the mother.

Fifteen minutes into the power-trip trouble, hospital officials alerted the CESC about the situation and summoned doctors to the bedside of critical patients, most of whom were kept near the heaters and were finding it hard to breathe.

D.N. Majumdar, executive director (distributions) at CESC, said supply was restored shortly after 5 am.

'The trip was caused when the overhead traction pole was being removed. We did our best to salvage the situation, but it is unfortunate that the hospital did not have an alternative power supply source,' he added.

When the lights came on, hospital staff members noticed Seema crying beside a lifeless Biswaroopa. 'I could see from a distance at least two other children kept near some machines (radiant warmers to balance the temperature inside) in a critical condition and their parents also crying,' recounted Seema.

M.K. Chatterjee, hospital superintendent, said the total of three deaths on Monday was not related to the power failure alone.

A crowd of protesters, including parents, members of the Haspatal-O-Janoswastha Raksha Committee and SUCI supporters put up a roadblock at the Phoolbagan crossing from 5.30 am after Chatterjee refused to meet them and accept a memorandum.

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