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Grief stricken by her loss in the landslide, a young girl walks on to a future unknown

A young girl lost both parents in the landslide that hit Makhuam village near Tupul in Noney district, Manipur on the intervening night of June 29-30.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 4 Aug 2022, 7:38 am

(Photo: IFP)
(Photo: IFP)

Sobbing and wiping her tears with the back of her hand, a young girl trudged along hurriedly with other villagers on the muddy hill track, as the rains continued to pour. They had to move to a safer place as their settlement at Makhuam village (Marangching), near Tupul in Noney district, Manipur was hit by a massive landslide on the intervening night of June 29-30.

The young girl named Gaidiuliu Gondaimei, who is now 12 years, lost both her parents on the night of the tragedy. Both were reportedly buried alive along with several others in the nightmarish incident that struck the Northern Frontier Railway worksite and an Indian Army company location atop a hill at Makhuam village (Marangching).

The girl's parents, Lungpuilan and Thuisinliu were running a small goods shop and engaged in livestock farming in the vicinity of the railway worksite for their livelihood.

As the landslide-affected villagers moved to safer areas on June 30 amid the sound of several ambulance rushing to the incident site, one of the village women pointed to the grief stricken girl and told the Imphal Free Press team at ground zero, “She is the daughter of the husband and wife who were killed in the landslide. She’s left behind with two younger siblings.”

Traumatised by the devastation and the loss of both her parents in the landslide, the girl quickly shied away from the camera and walked on along with the village women, perhaps to a safer place but an unknown future.

An eyewitness from the village, speaking to the Imphal Free Press team, said he could not remember the time of the incident. “It was midnight when the incident occurred. Most of the landslide victims must have been fast asleep at that time,” he said.

He further told the IFP that those buried alive in the landslide debris included two families  - one couple and a child from Makhuam village (Marangching Part-4), and another couple from the village (Marangching Part 5). They have been living around a NF railway platform construction site, rearing livestock for their livelihood.  

“The people searched for the two family members, but they could not be found,” he added.

One of the women killed along with her husband and child was said to be four-month pregnant as revealed by her grieving father-in-law named Gondaimei Lungaiphun, to the Imphal Free Press. Lungaiphun and his family members were mourning the death of his 28-year-old son Kabamgai, daughter-in-law Chunthuiliu, one-year and-eight months old granddaughter Jenthouliu and the death of an unborn child, when the Imphal Free Press team visited them on July 2, 2022.

While some mourned, volunteers and the official rescue team continued with their search for the other missing bodies tirelessly in the slushy and muddy landslide debris, undaunted by the poor weather condition that made their task even more difficult.

Meanwhile, another eyewitness of the Makhuam landslide, shared his story to the Imphal Free Press.

"We were awakened from our sleep by the loud thumping sound of a pile of mud falling down. It was completely dark and foggy and the vision was not very clear. Panic struck us the moment we heard the loud sound,” Pougonglung Gangmei said.

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Forty-seven-year-old Pougonglung of Marangching Part 3 (Makhuam), who is an ABCI labourer, was still in a traumatic state as he recounted the massive landslide that hit the Northern Frontier Railway worksite and a location of the 107 Territorial Army at Makhuam village under Noney district in Manipur on the intervening night of June 29 and 30.

Several labourers like him were engaged in the railway work at Makhuam area since two years.

“We feared some of the people may have been buried alive considering the massive scale of the landslide that struck that night," he said.

Amid the unprecedented and woeful devastation, 28-year-old Kabamgai, a DG operator for the NF railway project, was believed to be buried alive in the landslide debris along with his wife Chunthuiliu and one-year and eight-month-old child Jenthoiliu.

When the Imphal Free Press approached the family members for an interview, they were mourning the death of an unborn child. Kabamgai’s wife was four-month pregnant, disclosed her grieving father-in-law, Gondaimei Lungaiphun.

"My first worry when I learnt about the landslide was my grandchild. They have been staying at the place where the landslide struck for almost two years to earn some income since they were running a family," he said, speaking to the Imphal Free Press.

Kabamgai had been staying at the area for almost two years along with his wife and daughter and was engaged in livestock farming. His father had hopes of seeing them alive again, but lost all hopes now.

"The last time I met them was two weeks ago. At first, I had hopes of seeing them alive somehow. Now that the rescue operation has been going on since the last five days, I just want to see their bodies," a visibly sad Lungaiphun said.

Heartbroken and traumatized, he also drew the attention of the state government, officials and personnel engaged in the rescue operation to at least make him see their bodies for the last time if they could be found.

CO of 12 Battalion National Disaster Response Force, Pankaj Kavdayal said that all the personnel engaged in the rescue and search operations are facing huge inconveniences due to the inclement weather and since they could not search for the bodies manually owing to the huge pile of mud needed to be dug out.

The unprecedented landslide affected a vast area of Makhuam, and the landslide debris even blocked a portion of Ijei river flowin through the village, also called Marangching by some.

"Huge machineries like excavators are being used. If not for the heavy rainfall, the operation will be successful and all bodies will be retrieved at the earliest," he added.

The huge devastation affected 79 people residing in the region. Of them, 58, including 29 personnel of the 107 Indian Territorial Army died. Their bodies were recovered by the search and rescue team. The team rescued 18 other people who sustained injuries in the tragic incident, while three remained missing, as per official sources.

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On July 20, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced the government decision to call off the rescue operation.

“After a thorough discussion with all stakeholders, the government has decided to officially close the rescue operation today.” Later, a day after the rescue operation was called off parts of the bodies of the two missing villagers were found by some villagers who refused to give up and relentlessly searched for the missing bodies.

The rescue is over, and reports on the cause of the massive tragedy is quickly released, while some continue to debate over it, the rains continue to lash the lush green rainforest hills unforgivingly. And, the rumbling sound of more landslides, heralding more devastation are heard in the distant, but not too far.

By Donald Sairem and Devadarshan Sharma | IFP

WATCH:

Worst Natural Disaster in Manipur | Day 3: Death Toll 34, Several Missing

Massive Landslide at NF Railway Worksite in Manipur | Ground Report by Team IFP

Manipur's Most Dangerous Road - Endangering Lives | Tamenglong Road

Also Read:

Four-month pregnant woman among dead in Manipur landslide

Manipur Landslide: CM Biren visits injured personnel at Army Hospital, extends aid

Tupul Landslide Rescue Operation: Six more bodies recovered

After Tupul, another massive landslide hits Sibilong in Manipur

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First published:4 Jul 2022, 10:26 am

Tags:

manipurnoneylandslidegirltupulmakhuamlandslide survivors

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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