8 More Bodies Recovered From Tunnel Collapse In J&K, Death Toll Reaches 9

Jammu And Kashmir: The operation to rescue nine labourers feared trapped under the debris resumed early on Saturday after a fresh landslide on Friday evening had forced the authorities to suspend the process.

ITBP jawans during rescue operation in Ramban area of J&K.

Eight bodies were pulled out from the rubble of a landslide which hit one end of an under-construction tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway two days ago, raising the death toll in the incident to nine on Saturday, officials said.

The search for one more missing worker is on as the rescue operation entered its final phase, they said.

Earlier, the officials had said that a portion of the under-construction tunnel collapsed soon after the work on the project started. 

But on Saturday, the deputy commissioner of Ramban quoted the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to say that a landslide had hit the mouth of the adit tunnel to T4.

"As clarified by NHAI, it is informed that there is no tunnel collapse near Khooni Nallah. A slide occurred on the mouth of the adit tunnel to T4 on Thursday night under which a labourer component of concessionaire company was working. Operation continues," Islam tweeted.

The body of one person was recovered on Friday, while three others, including two locals, were rescued and are stable.

Officials said that on Saturday, another body was pulled out after several hours of intense search. It took them over two hours to pull out the body from under the rocks.

Seven more bodies were later pulled out while a search for one more remaining person is underway on a war footing.

"Eight bodies were recovered from the scene of the landslide outside the mouth of adit tunnel during the day-long hectic search by the rescuers (on Saturday). The operation is on for one more missing labourer," the deputy commissioner told PTI.

Islam said all the bodies have been sent to a government hospital for identification and other legal formalities.

He said an immediate ex gratia of Rs 25,000 from the Red Cross fund and Rs 25,000 from the company is being given to kin of two local labourers, who are believed to have died in the incident along with six workers from West Bengal, two from Nepal and one from Assam.

An operation to rescue the trapped persons was launched soon after the incident but had to be suspended on Friday evening due to a fresh landslide and inclement weather. 

Over 15 rescuers, including the Station House Officer of Ramsu police station, Nayeem-Ul-Haq, had a narrow escape during this time, officials said.

Senior CPI(M) leader and former MLA M Y Tarigami demanded a  judicial probe into the incident and Rs 40 lakh compensation for the kin of the deceased 

"This is not an ordinary incident. There seems to be criminal negligence. A judicial inquiry should be ordered to probe the horrific incident so that the guilty are identified and brought to justice," he said in a statement.

Tarigami, who is the Jammu and Kashmir unit president of CITU, said, "Reportedly NHAI had handed over the execution of the work of this patch to SIGAL company which in turn handed it over to a little-known sublet SARLA, which is reportedly a software company and not technical."

(With PTI inputs)