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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Nuh village in mourning as freak accident cuts short lives of four girls

Family members said that on Monday evening, Wakeela (18), Janista (18) Tasleema (11), Gulafsha (8) and Sofiya (9) had gone to fetch dry soil from a panchayat mound, typically used for tending to farm animals and to use for drying wet soil after heavy rain.

Written by Pavneet Singh Chadha | Nuh |
Updated: January 12, 2022 7:33:37 am
Among the victims was Wali’s niece, 18-year-old Wakeela, who was supposed to meet with a suitor on Tuesday to get married.

Kudrat ka jo niyam hai sehna padega (We have to bear the nature’s law),” said Wali Mohammad on Tuesday, amid wails of crying, as hundreds gathered outside his house in Kangarka village in Haryana’s Nuh district on Tuesday to offer condolences on the death of four teenage girls – all from the same extended family – who were buried alive after a mound of earth caved in on them a day earlier.

Family members said that on Monday evening, Wakeela (18), Janista (18) Tasleema (11), Gulafsha (8) and Sofiya (9) had gone to fetch dry soil from a panchayat mound, typically used for tending to farm animals and to use for drying wet soil after heavy rain.

“As they were digging with small spades, the entire 25-feet mound collapsed and they were buried underneath. It was an hour before villagers spotted them. An earthmover was called and it took another hour to pull them out. One girl survived,” said Abdul Sattar, the village sarpanch.

Nine-year-old Sofiya, a student of class 3 at government school in Tauru, was the lone survivor. She was pulled out by villagers and rushed to a nearby hospital, where she is stable. Her father Javed said, “When I reached the site, my daughter was unconscious. She later told me the soil suddenly fell from the top and there was no time to run. She told us they were buried there for over an hour.”

Among the victims was Wali’s niece, 18-year-old Wakeela, who was supposed to meet with a suitor on Tuesday to get married.

Her father Sher Mohammad, a taxi driver, said, “His family was supposed to come meet her today. Such is the fate that they attended her funeral.”

Her family said she dropped out of school after class 8 and had been helping her mother run the household ever since. “Before I left for work at noon yesterday, she served me lunch and we talked. I never knew I wouldn’t see her again,” said her father.

A day earlier, the Nuh district collector, sub-divisional magistrate and senior police officers had visited the family.

Hamid, a security guard, whose 8-year-old daughter Gulafsha was among the dead, said she had gone to the site to collect dry soil for the first time. “She must have tagged along with her cousins. I was returning from my shift when a relative informed me of the incident. Jab mein pahuncha woh mitti ke neeche dabi hui thi (When I reached, she was buried under the soil),” he said.

A pall of gloom descended on the village on Tuesday.

A day earlier, the Nuh district collector, sub-divisional magistrate and senior police officers had visited the family.

Wali said, “Everyone collects dry soil for use in their homes. Something like this has never happened before.”

Family members said that when the girls did not return home for an hour, relatives and neighbours frantically started searching for them, leading them to the site, about 500 metres from their house.

“There was a wedding in the village yesterday. So initially everyone suspected that they may have gone there to see the customs. Around 6.15 pm, someone found that soil had caved in and informed others. If we had known earlier, they could have been saved,” said Israil, a relative.

Wali said, “One by one, three bodies were retrieved from underneath the soil and rocks by a JCB. Each time we hoped someone would survive. But, in vain.”

Villagers said they would stop sending children to fetch dry soil from now on. “It used to be johad (percolation pond) where the incident took place. Frequent digging for soil made it unsafe. We never imagined something like this could happen,” said the sarpanch.

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