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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

At Wahlyngkhat, two widows feel Rngain landslide was man-made

"That morning he left for Mawsynram and I couldn't get in touch with him the entire day. Later in the evening, our neighbours informed us about the incident," said Ribayana Khongshut, the wife of one of the victims, 42-year-old Seiborlang Jaktung, who was also the headman of the village.

By Ferdinand Rani

Wahlyngkhat:

A week after some boulders and accompanying mounds of earth rolled down and took along a car passing by on the Shillong-Dawki road (National Highway-40) to the gorge killing both the occupants, just a handful of workers were seen on Saturday working to clear the debris left behind by the landslide at Rngian.

The legend on the signage beside the road has been proved right yet again. It reads:  “Heavy landslide-prone area ahead go slow.”

Five kilometres away, two families at Wahlngkhat village are still in shock over what happened on the evening of April 14.

“That morning he left for Mawsynram and I couldn’t get in touch with him the entire day. Later in the evening, our neighbours informed us about the incident,” said Ribayana Khongshut, the wife of one of the victims, 42-year-old Seiborlang Jaktung, who was also the headman of the village.

 “I took my child and went to the site. When I saw the scale of the landslide I knew he was not going to make it,” she said as her three-year-old son took a nap resting on her lap.

After her husband’s death, Khongshut, a housewife, has now moved in with her mother along with her son.

Sharing the last moments their son had with his dad, Khongshut said, “My son cried because he wanted to go along with his dad, but he (Seiborlang Jaktung) stopped him saying he was going far. He told him, ‘I will come to pick you up’ and left”.

Meanwhile, on another side of the village across the highway that cuts through it, family members continued to console the ailing wife of the second victim, Krejunlang Khongjirem, fondly known as Bah Jun.  Khongjirem is survived by his wife and four children.

“The last time I spoke to him on the phone, he said they had reached Laitlyngkot and I asked him to bring milk for the kids to which he said yes and hung up. In a short while a relative called and said there’s bad news about your husband,” said his wife, Anibahun Khongwet.

Khongwet is under medication for over three years now, and cannot move around without company. Three of her children study in schools in Pynursla and Langkyrdem, and now, without her husband, supporting their education will be a challenge. “I don’t know how to fend for them anymore. Who’s going to take care of their education?” she said.

While both families are still overwhelmed by what happened to their loved ones, the cause of the incident according to them is “man-made”.

Khongwet asked, “How could there be a landslide without rain and storm?”

Another relative said, “It is faulty work by the contractors. They dug the soil from beneath, that’s how big boulders on top fell down”.

Residents here also suspect that those executing the road widening work had probably foreseen the danger at hand.

Khongshut said, “A few days before the incident there were no workers and machinery there which clearly shows they knew that this would happen but didn’t inform the public as they usually would.”

The residents here informed that every time the construction company noticed a potential danger they usually informed the commuters but not this time. Some said that the company left the scene two months back yet contractors continued to work until a few days before the incident took place.

As for the widows, making a living at this point in time is next to impossible. One has to rely on her aged mother and the other is still trying to find means to support her kids’ education while at the same time taking care of her illness.

The families informed that no one from the authorities concerned, the local MLA, or the construction company visited them ever since their husbands died.

“We only had our relatives and neighbours coming to console and be with us,” Khongshut said.

A case has been registered on the mishap, but the two families are yet to decide on the matter. In the meantime, the families requested the authorities for support.

Khongshut said, “We need help. I have a son to feed and now I can only depend on my mother with whatever she has”.

On the other hand, Khongwet said, “I want the construction work to be done with care otherwise it will be very dangerous for everyone, especially now with the monsoon coming. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else”.

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