The death toll in the massive landslide at Toupul, in Noney district of Manipur, on Thursday has increased to 21 with the recovery of 13 more bodies, officials sources said.
Eleven bodies were found on Friday morning. Two more were recovered in the evening. Officials said over 50 bodies are believed to be buried under the debris.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren, who visited the devastation site on Friday for the second time, said that a sophisticated machine would arrive shortly from Ladakh that would help locate and retrieve missing bodies.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and others rang me up to express their anguish and assure all help from the Union government,” the Chief Minister said. “We will face no shortage during present operations”.
The State government had already announced an ex-gratia of ₹5 lakh each for the dead and ₹50,000 for the injured.
The rescued victims had been admitted to the Public Health Centre, Toupul. However, three persons who had developed health complications were rushed to Imphal for better treatment.
Officials said about 55 bodies are believed to be under the massive debris. Rescue teams find it difficult to reach the areas as vehicles cannot ply along the slippery and muddy hill roads. Search operations were suspended the whole night as there was no electricity in Toubul areas.
The bodies found on Friday were of ten were Army personnel and a railway employee. At least five tribal villagers are missing. Workers are trying to dig out some upper portions of the debris, which has blocked the flow of water in Ijel river, to prevent flooding of low lying villages.
The landslide, whose impact is unprecedented, has raised serious questions about the advisability of completing the railway lines connecting Manipur to Jiri station in adjacent Assam. The entire rail line will be located in the hills. The Manipur hills are of loose earth and one or two days’ rains always trigger land and mud slides disrupting vehicle traffic on State and national highways.
Government officials blame wanton destruction of forest and trees for the increasing incidence of landslides.