Over 250 villagers, including relatives of two missing workers, are camping near Khooni Nullah, a place near an under-construction tunnel where 13 labourers were buried under the debris following a major landslide two days ago.
They are praying for a miracle even as the hope of finding any survivors is fading.
So far, nine bodies have been recovered from the spot.
Muzaffar Ahmad Sheikh (38) and Mohammad Ishrat (30), both residents of Panthiyal village, were among 13 labourers who came under the debris late Thursday night.
With prayers on their lips for a miracle, over 250 residents of Panthiyal village led by Sarpanch Zahoor Ahmad Sheikh rushed to the scene immediately after hearing about the accident.
“With each passing hour, we are losing hope of finding any survivors. Every time a body is located, our heart beats fast. We want to see them alive and are praying for them,” the sarpanch told PTI over the phone from the scene.
He said both missing persons are his close relatives who are the lone bread-earners of their families.
Muzaffar Ahmad Sheikh has a wife and three daughters. Mohammad Ishrat’s family includes his wife, two daughters and a son. “Both families are going through a nightmare and need support at this hour of grief,” Zahoor Ahmad Sheikh said.
He said the rescuers are not allowing them to join the operation due to intermittent sliding from the hillock.
“We are waiting patiently and giving full cooperation to the authorities,” he said, demanding adequate compensation for the poor families, including the labourers from West Bengal, Assam, and Nepal.
The traffic on the highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, remained affected due to the tragic incident.
“As clarified by NHAI (National Highways Authority of India), it is informed that there is no tunnel collapse near Khooni Nullah. A slide occurred on the mouth of adit tunnel to T4 on Thursday night under which a labourer component of concessionaire Co was working. Operation continues,” Ramban Deputy Commissioner Mussarat Islam said in a tweet.
Search still on for the 10th missing person at debris site at Khooni Nallah. HLG monitoring situation. More updates to follow. @diprjk @RambanPolice @mohita_ips @OfficeOfLGJandK @DrJitendraSingh @nitishwarKumar pic.twitter.com/TJ6RyGswXL
— Deputy Commissioner, Ramban (@dcramban) May 21, 2022
As per officials, the adit tunnel was just three to four metres long as the work on the project started only a few days ago.
Mohammad Amin, one of the three survivors, said he jumped from a dumper after its front windscreen broke under the impact of the falling rocks.
“I had a miraculous escape. The dumper got completely damaged shortly after I jumped out of it,” Mohammad Amin, who escaped with injuries in his back and was discharged from the hospital on Saturday told PTI.
Mohammad Amin was among three labourers who were rescued alive in the incident. Mohammad Khalil, a driver by profession, and his colleague from West Bengal were the other two survivors.
“I used to work as a machine operator and dropped nine workers along with gas cylinders before shifting to a dumper. It all happened within a few seconds,” he said.
Meanwhile, police have registered a case under Sections 287 (Negligent conduct with respect to machinery), 304-A (Causing death by negligence), 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others) and 337 (casing hurt by act of endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC, officials said.
However, they said no one was arrested in connection with the case.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)