The first tremors shook Manipur, rattled the people and sent concrete buildings tumbling. The man-made tremors much later were scarier.
Hours after a 6.7–magnitude earthquake hit the state and other parts of Northeast on Monday, SMSes started doing the rounds with possible timings of powerful aftershocks, triggering scare among the already panicky people, especially in capital Imphal.
Spread by unidentified people, the text messages added to the anxiety and panic among the people, who had spent the better part of the chilly January morning out in the open since the temblor at around 4.30 am.
The panic and confusion were, in effect, the order of the day in the state with the authorities slow in reacting to the natural disaster which left seven dead and more than 70 injured.
At a press conference addressed by deputy chief minister G Gaikhangam at 3pm, there was no word on how the state disaster team was coordinating with the National Disaster Response Force team, rushed from Guwahati to join the rescue operations.
There was also confusion about the number of casualties with Gaikhangam giving out the names of at least seven dead while chief minister O Ibobi Singh put the toll at six.
Vehicles, including water tankers, made their way across a bridge that had developed cracks and was closed to traffic. But there was none to monitor the situation.
At Thangal bazaar, the main commercial hub of Imphal that reported cracks in shops and residential buildings, life went about as usual for the shopkeepers though public presence was lower than usual.
The famous Mothers’ Market was closed by the police using thin plastic ropes that were supposed to deter the public from venturing into the sheds that had part of its walls and pillars crumbling down.
It was only late in the evening that the chief minister announced that district level disaster response teams have been set up and that help lines are in place.
At the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) where most of the injured are being treated, people were lying on mats on the floor.