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Eyewitness: 'We heard a boom. We were all terrified.'

'It had been raining for hours, when there was a short break and the sun came out. Then we heard a "boom". We were all terrified.' Recalls 60-year-old grandfather Kalam Singh.

That boom was the earth on the mountainside giving way, completely flattening one of the two buildings that housed the family. For Kalam’s son, 30-year-old Dhanpal, the moment was devastating. 

His wife Laxmi, two of their children and his mother (his aunt who adopted him) were killed. Only his 10-year-old daughter Arti survived; she was fetching water at the time.

Kalam, Dhanpal and Arti from India stand together on the spot where their house once stood

Three generations of a family stand together on the spot where their house once stood. Dhanpal’s wife Laxmi’s body was found feet from where they stand, under a pile of metal rods. (Left to right: Kalam, Dhanpal and Arti.)

Landslide tears family apart

'We heard a "boom". We were all terrified.'

Kalam continued, ‘Landslides have never happened since I’ve lived here, nor all the time my family has lived here.   This is also the first time there’s been a cloud burst [intense rain in a small area] in our village.’

According to Kalam, the villagers on the other side of the valley could see it happening and started running towards the house screaming, in a state of disbelief.

It’s difficult for Dhanpal to talk about what happened. The sudden shock and pain of losing his wife and children is still raw. ‘My only hope for the future is that my daughter receives a good education; that is my priority now.’ he says.  The community has since rallied round providing Dhanpal and Arti with temporary shelter.

Unstable and unsafe homes

Udari village is now cut off from all major transport routes and it is a steep two-hour trek along streams and through paddy fields to reach the village.  Many homes are simply too unstable and unsafe to live in.

Our response

The Indian government has said that it will compensate families who’ve lost loved ones following the disaster, and so Christian Aid partner Church's Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) is supporting the community to ensure people receive the compensation they are entitled to.

They are assessing their needs concerning food, water, blankets and essential medicines, as well as long-term needs including safe shelter.

Our partners CASA, Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS) and Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) are responding now, meeting the immediate needs of people in the three worst-affected districts of Uttarkhand state.

 

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