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IANS

With recovery of right more bodies on Saturday, the death toll in Thursday's catastrophic landslides in Manipur's Noney district, triggered by incessant rains, has reached 27, including 22 Territorial Army personnel, while over 40 more people are still missing, officials said.

Official reports said that more than 80 persons are feared to have been buried alive after the massive mudslide in the under-construction railway infrastructures at Tupul in western Manipur.

Officials said that 13 injured Territorial Army soldiers and five civilians have been extricated even as rescue operations by the army, and central and state agencies were on at full pace since the past three days.

A defence spokesman said that mortal remains of 14 Territorial Army personnel, including one JCO, were sent to their respective home stations by Indian Air Force aircraft and an Indian Army helicopter, while one body was sent to Manipur's Kangpokpi by road after a wreath-laying ceremony in Imphal. The Army's Red Shield Division commander and Inspector General of Assam Rifles, South, participated in the ceremony.

Search for 12 missing Territorial Army personnel and 26 civilians continued by the Army, Assam Rifles, Territorial Army, national and state disaster response force at Tupul, and several excavators are being used to pull out bodies from the Ijei River.

Around 10 columns of defence personnel have been pressed into the search operation, he said, adding a synergised and joint operational task force is coordinating the efforts to remove the mud and boulders.

"'Thorough Wall Radar' is also being inducted to detect the presence of personnel buried in the debris," the defence spokesman said, adding that a search and rescue dog squad is also being inducted.

Meanwhile, fresh landslides were also reported since Friday night near Tupul and adjoining areas making the situation further critical.

Meanwhile, the district administration has cautioned civilians living in downstream areas of the Ijei river to evacuate due to the likelihood of breach in the dam created on the river by the landslide.

Noney Deputy Commissioner Haulianlal Guite said the landslide also obstructed the course of the Ijei river which flows through Tamenglong and Noney districts, and warned the general public, especially children, against going near the river.

If the situation further deteriorates, it would wreak havoc to the low-lying areas of Noney district, he added.

People have also been advised against travelling along the National Highway 37 due to multiple road blockages due to landslides.

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