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8 dead, at least 45 Army personnel, civilians missing in massive Manipur landslide

Landslide hits Tupul Railway Station late Wednesday in Noney district, where an Army company was stationed; 18 rescued so far.

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New Delhi: At least 45 Indian Army personnel and civilians were missing, and eight confirmed dead, after a massive landslide hit Tupul Railway Station in Manipur’s Noney district late on Wednesday night.

A company of the Territorial Army was stationed there as protection for a railway line being constructed from Jiribam to the state’s capital, Imphal.

“Full scale rescue operations” were on, the Army said Thursday, revealing that 13 individuals had been saved till 5.30 am.

The Army added: “The available engineer plant equipment on site has been pressed into the rescue efforts. The injured individuals are being treated at Noney Army Medical unit. Evacuation of the (critically injured personnel) is in progress.”

However, fresh landslides and poor weather conditions have hindered the Army’s rescue and evacuation efforts.

The landslide has also extensively damaged the local topography and the flow of the Ijei river.

Retired Indian Army officer Col D.P.K. Pillay — who previously served in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur — shared a video Thursday morning revealing the magnitude of the damage.

“Unfortunate incident but sadly we will not know about it because it is the back of beyond for many of us. We lost soldiers from Railway TA at Nonei. The most scenic region with warm hearted loving people,” Col Pillay tweeted.

The district administration has indicated the situation could worsen and urged people to evacuate the area. “The flow of the Ijei river (which passes through the Noney district) has also been obstructed by the debris, creating a dam-like storage condition which if breached will wreak havoc to the low lying areas of Noney District Head Quarter,” Noney Deputy Commissioner Haulianlal Guite said in an advisory.

“However a concerted effort is underway to rescue the missing individuals. Army helicopters are on standby waiting for the weather to clear,” the Army said. Located roughly 15 kilometres southeast of the town of Noney, the Tupul Railway Station is part of a 111-kilometres railway project that has been under construction for several years, ever since former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu laid the foundation stone for Imphal’s railway station in July 2016.

According to The Indian Express, the goal of the project is to provide greater connectivity between Manipur and the Indian mainland, and include the world’s tallest railway bridge between Jiribam and Imphal overlooking the Iring river.

With inputs from Angana Chakrabarti and Snehesh Alex Philip.

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