Manipur: Eight persons dead, over 40 missing in landslide
At least eight persons, mostly soldiers, were killed and over 40 are missing after a massive landslide hit the under-construction Tupul railway station yard in Noney district of Manipur early on Thursday.
Rescue workers pulled out 18 survivors from the rubble on Thursday morning, but said the likelihood of finding any more was thin, Reuters reported.
The weather turned inclement towards the evening, halting rescue operations that are expected to resume at 4am on Friday.
“In all there were about 71 people. The chances of survival of the remaining 44 people are very thin considering the fact that the landslide occurred around 2am,” Haulianlal Guite, the deputy commissioner of Noney, told Reuters over the phone.
Most of the deceased are from the 107 Indian Territorial Army (ITA) deployed near the station for the protection of the railway tracks that are being laid from Jiribam to Imphal, stretching approximately 97km.
Kohima-based defence public relations officer Sumit K. Sharma said the bodies of seven soldiers and one civilian had been recovered. “So far 13 soldiers of the ITA and five civilians have been rescued,” he added.
Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh said after a stock-taking visit that at least 40 people were still missing. “The unfortunate landslide occurred last night, leaving several casualties and dozens buried alive,” a government statement said.
According to reports available with the Noney deputy commissioner, there were 44 ITA personnel, of whom 24 are missing including a civilian driver. He said the earth was still lose and coming off in small chunks.
There were also 21 personnel engaged by two civilian firms executing the project. The body of one of them has been recovered while five others have been rescued.
The extent of the tragedy will become clear on Friday, a volunteer said.
The North East Frontier Railway said incessant heavy rain for the past few days caused the hillock adjacent to the Tupul station yard to give way.
“The under-construction Tupul station building, track formation and camps of construction workers got damaged as a result of the massive landslide,” the NFR said, adding that senior railway officials, engineers and equipment at the construction site are being used for the rescue.
The flow of the Ijei (Agah) river that was blocked due to debris from the landslide, creating a dam-like storage, was opened by the railways at the request of the government using machines, the NFR said.
The Noney administration has advised people against travelling through NH37 because of landslide-triggered roadblocks at multiple locations.
The site of the accident is around 4km from the highway and about 50km from capital Imphal.
The administration has also launched four helplines — 8308486828, 8414876531, 8730935885 and 7005000344.
After holding an emergency meeting in the morning, chief minister Biren Singh rushed to the site where he said the state government would provide an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured people, besides bearing all expenses of their treatment.
He said rescue teams from the army, Manipur police, SRDF and Assam Rifles had been deployed.
“Let’s keep them in our prayers today. At least 40 persons are missing,” Biren Singh said.
He later tweeted about Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling to review the situation of the “tragic landslide” and assuring all possible assistance.
Daichuipao, president of the Rongmei Naga Students’ Organisation Manipur and one of the volunteers to reach the site around 8am, said he was shocked to witness the “massive devastation and tragedy”.
“We have been having incessant rain for nearly three weeks. I have not seen anything like this before…. Two local families are among those missing. The rescue operation was stopped once it got dark and started raining in the evening,” he told The Telegraph.