Dead bodies of 10 workers have been recovered after a 36-hour long rescue operation in Jammu and Kashmir's Ramban district, officials said.
The workers were buried under debris following a massive landslide after an under-construction tunnel cave-in at Khoni Nallah along the Srinagar- Jammu highway. Experts say the failure of the construction company to follow protection norms may have led to the tragedy. Police have filed an FIR for negligence.
The workers were carrying out open excavation at the tunnel opening on late Thursday evening when massive rocks came crashing. Five victims are from West Bengal, two from Nepal, one from Assam, and two from Jammu and Kashmir.
Rescue operations resumed today after they halted on Friday evening when a huge landslide hit the rescue site.
A compensation of Rs 16 lakh will be provided to the family of each of the 10 labourers, a senior government official said on Saturday.
Following directions received from Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, Rs 15 lakh compensation each shall be given by the construction company to those who died in the tunnel landslide, the Ramban District Magistrate said.
He said Lt Governor has also announced Rs 1 lakh exgratia from relief fund to each family of the labourers who died.
It's been a painful wait for relatives waiting for bodies who say that faulty protection measures led to the tragedy.
"Had they done the step by step cutting...if they had done that, our nine children and brothers would not have died. My brother-in-law is buried there and I'm feeling the pain it's causing," said a relative of a worker.
Police said they have filed an FIR for negligence but the company carrying out the work has not been named.
"We have already registered an FIR for negligence," said Mohita Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Ramban.
Masarat Ul Islam, the District Magistrate of Ramban, said all the 10 bodies were recovered today and the identification process of bodies is being done so that they are handed over to their relatives for last rites. He said an inquiry will be ordered as and when the government deems it fit.
"We have registered an FIR. Moreover, as and when the government deems it fit inquiry will be ordered. Regarding the loopholes you are talking about, I will be able to talk about them when the inquiry will be ordered," he said.
So, what went wrong?
Experts say basic protection measures may have been compromised. For example, right above the tunnel opening, slope stabilisation and rock fall protection work is a prerequisites. It appears these measures were not taken before the workers started work on the tunnel.
"Before drilling, blasting, and excavation, things like rock-bolt, wire mesh, and shotcrete have to be carried out. It's a must," said an expert.
He said when a tunnel excavation is carried out, a de-pressured zone is created right above the tunnel opening.
Thirteen workers had come under the landslide. While three had miraculous escapes, 10 were trapped under massive rocks and mud.