At least seven soldiers among 14 dead in massive landslide in northeast India

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At least 14 people, including soldiers, have been confirmed dead after a massive landslide hit a territorial army camp in India's northeastern state of Manipur. More than 50 people are believed to be trapped under the debris.

The landslide took place during the early hours of Thursday at a railway construction site in Noney, a town near the capital Imphal, where workers were sleeping in a makeshift camp.

Soldiers were reportedly deployed near Tupul railway station for the protection of the under-construction train line, given the presence of rebel insurgents in the area.

“Twenty-three people were brought out from the debris, of which 14 [are] dead. More people are being searched. It is not confirmed how many are buried but as of now, 60 people including villagers, army and railway personnel and labourers are buried (sic),” director general of police P Doungel told reporters.

Search operations continued on Friday despite heavy rains, with over 200 rescue workers and police using earth-clearing equipment to pull out those buried under the rubble.

The Indian army and the national and state disaster rescue forces have been pressed into action. However, officials fear the chances of the remaining people surviving are thin.

“Engineering equipment including dozers have been pressed into service for creating access to the incident site and help in the rescue efforts,” the army said, adding that helicopters were kept on standby.

Debris from the landslide blocked the river Ejai, thereby creating a dam-like structure and resulting in the inundation of low-lying areas. The debris was later cleared by rescue officers, who also asked people living nearby to move to safer areas.

NDRF personnel and others trying to rescue those buried under the debris (AP)
NDRF personnel and others trying to rescue those buried under the debris (AP)

Seven of the confirmed dead were members of the territorial army, while five Indian railway officials were among those missing, Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh said on Thursday, following his visit to the disaster site.

“Ambulances along with doctors have also been dispatched to assist in the operation,” the chief minister tweeted after chairing an emergency meeting.

Meanwhile, family members of those trapped in the landslide were seen rushing to the state.

“We got a call at home around 10am on Thursday informing us that my brother is trapped in a landslide and rescue operations are ongoing. My brother’s phone is switched off and the situation at home is not good,” Amalesh Takukdar, the brother of one of the trapped railway engineers, told local news website East Mojo.

Prime minister Narendra Modi in a tweet “assured all possible support” from the federal government. “My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”

Although landslides are common in the Himalayan region, Manipur’s mudslide comes as incessant rainfall since May continues to wreak havoc on India’s northeastern states and neighbouring Bangladesh, killing hundreds and dispersing thousands of people.

An estimated 200 people have been killed in floods and mudslides in the Indian states of Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Sikkim, while 42 people have died in Bangladesh.

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