"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, an eyewitness of the Makhuam landslide, told the Imphal Free Press.
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.
As many as 79 people were affected by the landslide. Of them, 47 bodies were recovered and 18 rescued till July 4.
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 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.
He also drew the attention of the government, officials and personnel engaged in the rescue operation to at least make him see their bodies for the last time if they were recovered.
CO of 12 Battalion NDRF, Pankaj Kavdayal said that the personnel engaged in the rescue and search operations are facing huge inconveniences since they could not search for the bodies manually owing to the huge pile of mud needed to be dug out.
"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.