Aizawl: A building at Vaivakawn Zohnuai in western Aizawl collapsed around 11:00am today, after it literally hanged on a thread for more than a month.
The collapse of the building triggered by loosening and softening of the soil beneath caused extensive damage to the road that connects Mizoram University and several localities in western part of Aizawl, leading to indefinite closure. The collapsed building situated next to this road.
The building’s collapse was triggered by a series of landslides that commenced on June 19. Situated directly below the ill-fated structure lies the national highway, a vital link that also connects Aizawl to Lengpui Airport. The initial landslide, caused by soil excavation for building’s construction, coupled with relentless monsoon rains, set off a chain of events that eventually led to this tragic outcome.
Recognising the impending danger after the landslide beneath the cliff on June 19, all the families residing in the building were promptly evacuated to safety. However, with every subsequent rainfall, the frequency of landslides below the building increased, culminating in its tragic collapse on Thursday.
The authorities are currently assessing the extent of the damage and have begun immediate measures to clear the debris and restore the disrupted roadways.
According to Disaster Management & Rehabilitation Minister Lalchamliana, although the state government has allocated funds for handling disasters, the scale of this landslide is so immense that it necessitates intervention from the central government. He stated that they will be submitting a comprehensive report to the national disaster management authorities seeking their assistance and support.
Notably, the affected area had been designated as a high-risk zone in the Hazard Map drafted by the Aizawl Municipal Corporation last year.
Officials have attributed the cause of the landslide to an improper drainage system, which led to displaced joints within the soil, exacerbated by soil cutting activities in the vicinity. These factors collectively contributed to the unfortunate incident.
Many houses in Aizawl live under the mercy of landslides that come every monsoon without fail.
Geologists say that most of the buildings in Aizawl can meet the same fate as the buildings lie in landslide-prone area. According to Dr H Lallenmawia, a retired joint director of Geology & Mineral Resources department, the soil in most parts of Aizawl is soft and the topography has an average of more than 35 degree slope.
Due to heavy rainfall and improper drainage and sewerage system, large amount of water penetrate into the soil. This makes the city highly vulnerable to disastrous landslides,
To make matters worse, most of the buildings in Aizawl were constructed without following safety norms and sub-standard materials, particularly iron rods and cement, were used.
The city can face major disasters due to landslides triggered by monsoon rains or earthquake as the entire Mizoram falls under earthquake prone zone.
Built in 1890, Aizawl turns 133 years this year. But literally speaking, the youthful city looks like an old aged man waiting for the end to come. The rapid and unplanned urbanisation has made the city more vulnerable to landslides, according to an official in the Disaster & Rehabilitation department.
Landslides in Aizawl are mainly man-made disasters. It can be prevented by taking certain precautionary measures, he said. Lalhmachhuana, a senior geologist at the Geology and Mining department, said that the structure of the soil also has something to do with landslides.
Many landslide prone areas in Aizawl are covered with silpaulin sheets to prevent rain seepage.
However, they remain even in the dry season. The geologist advised the cover be lifted during non-rainy season to let the sun harden the soil. Improper sewage system, dumping of garbage in the drains and littering the environment with polythene bags are other factors behind landslides. Environmentalists have strongly advocated banning of the use of polythene bags.