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18 Jun 2017

Landslip kills 6 in hill state - Probe ordered in Meghalaya, bridge collapses; Assam residents allege lack of warning

The body of a landslide victim being carried by rescue workers in Ri Bhoi district on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos
Andrew W. Lyngdoh, TT, Shillong, June 17:  At least six persons, including three women and a child, were killed and nine injured in landslides triggered by heavy rain in two separate incidents in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi and East Khasi Hills districts today.
The incidents occurred in the Tharia area of Umiam Industrial Estate and at Ladkyntong village in Mawjrong under Sohra subdivision.
The Tharia area falls under the Umiam police station, nearly 15km from here, while Ladkyntong is around 28km away.
According to official sources, the deceased at the Tharia incident have been identified as Loba Mahanta, 25, Babi Mahanta, 19, Shanti Lama, 12, Reena Lama, 21 and Buna Lama, 13, who succumbed to his injuries at the Shillong civil hospital. One person is reportedly missing.
The public relations officer of the Meghalaya civil defence and homeguards, Paul Shylla, said Reena’s body was recovered around 6.30pm.
The landslide occurred around 5am and engulfed the staff quarters of a plywood factory, Veneer Product Private Ltd, and nearby houses, he said.
“The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) of the directorate of civil defence and homeguards quickly swung into action and engaged in rescue operations along with the fire and emergency services and local inhabitants,” Shylla said.
The deputy controller of civil defence, Shillong, P.H. Khongsngi and the officer-in-charge, SDRF, said Loba Mahanta and his wife Babi were labourers at the plywood factory.
He said the area affected by the landslide is below a landfill and a stream flows nearby.
Efforts are on to trace the missing person, Khongsngi said, adding that operations would resume at dawn as rescue workers cannot risk working at night according to standard safety protocols.
A magisterial probe has been ordered by the Ri Bhoi deputy commissioner, C.P. Gotmare, he said and added that the additional deputy commissioner of Ri Bhoi, D. Phawa, would handle the inquiry.
Gotmare named the nine injured persons as Sing Lama, Suresh Lama, Yam Kumar, Umesh Sharma, Seena Sharma, Lata Lama, Bunti Lama, Amita Dairy and Chandan Padmini.
They have been shifted to different hospitals, including the Shillong civil hospital, Ganesh Das Hospital and the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences.
The other incident at Ladkyntong village occurred around 3am.
Police said Iarisha Sohtun, aged around 3, was swept away along with their thatched house. After Sohtun was recovered from the mud, she was brought to the Swer primary health centre, where she was declared dead.
Condoling the deaths, chief minister Mukul Sangma has ordered an inquiry into the safety measures of industrial units to ensure that they are resilient to disasters.
The incident at Mawjrong occurred when a family of three, including the girl, was asleep.
According to the Sohra subdivisional officer, major landslides took place in several places under Sohra civil subdivision following heavy rain.
The SDO said major landslides were reported along Umstew-Wahkaba road, Tyrna as well as Umtyngar. The Shillong-Sohra road was blocked for nearly four hours.
A suspension bridge built over the Umthoin river that linked Tyllap and Mawbang villages has also collapsed.
Flash floods at Shella and Ichamati were also reported.

The Sohra SDO has advised people, including tourists visiting the Sohra area, to be cautious as landslides may occur following heavy rain.
Additional reporting by Rining Lyngdoh

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