By Prasad Joshi & Atikh Rashid
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which played a crucial role in retrieving bodies from the rock-and-mud debris after the Malin tragedy, said there could have been more survivors if continuous and heavy downpour had not compressed the landslide and blocked oxygen supply to those trapped.
Describing the rescue work at Malin as one of the toughest, considering the challenging conditions, authorities said NDRF operations at the July 30 landslide site boosted confidence to tackle any difficult situation. “The rescue operation at landslide-hit place began amid heavy downpour. The rainwater accumulated in debris. It compressed the debris. It clogged oxygen supply to those trapped resulting in more casualties,” NDRF deputy commandant, Sachidanand Gawade said.
He said the blocking of oxygen supply reduced chances of those trapped, within initial hours of rescue operation.
“In building collapse incidents or other such tragedies, we often succeed in locating survivors from debris upto say 48 hours. In one building collapse case, we could reach survivors beneath debris almost after nine days. In those calamities, oxygen supply is needed and chances of finding survivors were more,” Gawade told Newsline on Monday.
He said most casualties had taken place due to suffocation as oxygen supply was cut off.
The July 30 Malin landslide, which killed around 151 people, had only around eight survivors.
Addressing media persons, Alok Avasthy, Commandant with 5th battalion of the NDRF, said Malin rescue operation would go down in history as one of toughest operations. “The continuous rain at landslide-hit place caused marshy land around. Several feet of mud and slush was piled up at the rescue site. We were not able to see the ground even. Together, this produced tough working conditions for our teams,” he said.
Avasthy observed that houses of persons saved from the Malin tragedy were partially affected in the landslide.
Confusion: Rehab or memorial at Malin?
There was confusion about rehabilitation at Malin village following contradictory statements of leaders . Will the villagers be rehabilitated at the present location, or will a memorial come up there and the survivors be rehabilitated elsewhere? On Sunday, local MLA and Assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil and tribal development minister Madhukar Pichad made contradictory statements while addressing villagers during Dashakriya programme in the village.
“Some people say we should erect a memorial at the Malin site. I don’t agree. We want to see a bustling and lively village at the site as it was in the past. The village is not going anywhere. The adivasis are known for their determination. The village Malin will rise here again,” said Patil as he addressed the a 1000-strong crowd gathered at the bank of Bubhra river to attend the tenth day ritual.
Speaking immediately after him, Pichad said that it was important that a memorial was constructed at the site so that the name of villagers who died in the tragedy are remembered.
“People will forget the names of those who died in a few months. It’s important that a memorial is built at the site bearing names of all the 151 dead. We are ready to give funds from our Tribal Welfare department for such a memorial to be set up in the gaothan (the main settlement). We will establish a smirti vana (a memorial garden) at the site,” said Pichad.
A team of geologists who studied the hills in the area post Malin tragedy said that they were susceptible to landslides and it was insecure for the villagers to continue staying at the site.
Following this, the district administration had sent evacuation notices to villagers in houses that survived the landslide.