Life of 60-year-old Kapoor Singh is shattered. He has lost six family members in a landslide which buried Saddal village in Pancheri block of Udhampur district last Saturday.
Kapoor’s wife, daughter, eldest son, daughter-in-law, two grandchildren were among the 40 feared dead in the landslide. His eldest son’s brother-in-law, who had been staying with them, was also buried alive in the debris. Kapoor and his 24-year-old son Ganesh are now the only surviving members.
Kapoor was the village head’s house following a call for help, while Ganesh was in Katra when the incident occured.
So far, only 11 bodies have been recovered, while search for remaining victims is still on.
The district administration has sought help for environment and geology experts as manual search for the bodies appeared too little and heavy machines could not be used due to loose soil.
“On Saturday, Kapoor Singh alongwith his eldest son Rajeev reached my house at around 10 am. We had already started bringing out our luggage as my house started developing cracks,” said village panch Kartar Singh. After over an hour, Rajeev got a call from his home and left, while Kapoor continued to help them until he also received a call from his son asking him to return immediately. “We were preparing to go to his house when we heard a loud bang and saw the entire hill moving down engulfing everything that came its way,” said Kartar.
“Before we could understand anything, the ground below us started shaking. We immediately started running away from the site leaving everything behind,” he said.
“Everybody in the village — around 350 families — started running for life. It was dust all over,” Kartar recalled. They finally stopped at Saroli Top at around 5 pm.
In the meantime, villagers living on the nearby hills also came out of their houses and saw Saddal getting buried under the landslide. “Within two-three minutes, the entire village vanished under the landslide,” said Surjit Singh, sarpanch of Galiote panchayat.
With no power supply over the past few days and the telecommunication system disrupted, some villagers walked to Pancheri and informed the police about the incident.
DIG Udhampur-Reasi range Garib Dass immediately rushed a team to Saddal on Saturday night itself. On Sunday, a police team led by an ASP, besides members of NDRF and doctors were airlifted from Udhampur.