The death toll of the massive landslide at a railway construction site in Manipur's Noney district of India rose to 27 after 6 more bodies were recovered from the debris till 12 noon on the third day of search operation on Saturday, officials said. Around 35 others are still missing.
The massive landslide, which is said to be the first of its kind with such a huge magnitude in the history of Manipur, took place near the railway construction camp at Marangching part 5 area, about 75km west of the state capital, in the intervening night of June 29 and 30.
The landslide also hit 107 Territorial Army (TA) camp of the Indian Army deployed at the area for the protection of the railway construction work.
"So far, we have recovered 27 bodies (as of 12 noon) including today's six bodies," said a senior state government official who is monitoring the situation from Noney district headquarters. "Out of them, 20 are army men," he said.
Meanwhile, people familiar with the matter in the Army said that Wall Radar is being successfully used and search and rescue dogs are being employed to assist in the search operation.
"So far, 13 Territorial Army personnel and 5 civilians have been safely rescued, while mortal remains of 18 Territorial Army personnel and 6 civilians have been recovered," the Army said in a release on Saturday.
The mortal remains of 14 personnel including one junior commissioned officer (JCO) and 12 other ranks of Territorial Army personnel were sent to respective home stations by two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircrafts and an Indian Army helicopter, while one mortal remain was sent to Kangpokpi district in Manipur by road after wreath laying by GOC Red Shield Division and IG IGAR (South) at Imphal with full military honours on Saturday morning, it said.
The massive debris initially blocked the Ijei River creating a reservoir that may inundate low-lying areas. However, the water level has been receding fast after eight excavators cleared the debris and resumed the river course on Friday.
According to officials, as the landslide area covers about 1 km stretch, the search operation may take a few more days.
Many men and women from nearby villages, including relatives of two families from Marangching part 4 & 5 villages whose whereabouts are still unknown, have also been visiting the affected site with the hope of seeing recovery of the bodies by the search parties.
Among the missing are 29-year-old Kabamgai, his wife and one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. The family from Marangching Part 4 used to run a shop at the railway construction camp.
Paijolu, 52, mother of Kabamgai, said, "All our hope has been shattered as my son and daughter-in-law's phone is unreachable since Thursday morning."
Till Friday, 21 bodies were recovered while 18 injured persons were rescued and referred to hospitals for treatment.