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INDIA

Race to find survivors in India landslide as death toll rises

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 10:42am
 

Rescuers using earth-moving equipment and their bare hands dug through heavy mud and debris on Thursday, after a landslide engulfed an entire village in western India, killing at least 30 people and leaving about 100 missing and feared dead.

More than 24 hours after the landslide on Wednesday morning, authorities said the chances of survival were slim for anyone still trapped under the mud in Malin, a village of some 700 people in Pune district of Maharashtra state.

Watch: Rescuers battle rains after India landslide, 150 feared dead

Suresh Jadhav, a district official, said around 40 homes were wiped out.

Two days of torrential rains triggered the landslide, which continued to pound the area as rescuers brought bodies covered in soaked white sheets to waiting ambulances while relatives stood by, weeping. Bad communications, dangerous roads and debris delayed national rescue personnel from the stricken area for several hours on Wednesday.

The disaster only came to light when a bus driver passed by and saw that the village had disappeared under masses of mud and earth.

“The driver returned to a nearby city and alerted authorities,” Jadhav said. “Everything on the mountain came down.”

Thirty bodies had been recovered and eight people pulled out alive, said rescue official Sachin Tamboli.

Suresh Dhonde, who was working in another town when the landslide ripped through his village, said only two people managed to get out of his home alive.

“The other six are buried under the mud,” he said.

Crowds of people from nearby areas were helping rescuers, using their bare hands to move fallen trees and rocks. About 250 disaster response workers and at least 100 ambulances were involved in the rescue effort, officials said.

Overnight, emergency workers used flood lights mounted on jeeps to illuminate the disaster area, where the tangled roofs of homes poked up through thick mud.

Rescuers expected the death toll to rise in the village at the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains. Sandeep Rai Rathore, a top official of the National Disaster Response Force, estimated that around 100 people were missing and feared dead.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the loss of lives and said all possible efforts must be made to help the victims, according to a statement from his office. He sent Home Minister Rajnath Singh to the disaster area.

Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September. The area around the village has been deforested extensively, increasing its vulnerability to landslides. Similar deforestation and environmental damage have caused floods and landslides in other parts of India.

Pune district is about 150 kilometres southeast of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital.

On Thursday, heavy rains hit a remote mountainous village in northern India and six members of a family were feared dead, said police officer Pravin Tamta. Police have recovered two bodies and were searching for four others in Tehri district in the hilly Uttarakhand state, Tamta said. The village is 300 kilometres north of New Delhi.

Last year, more than 6,000 people were killed as floods and landslides swept through Uttarakhand state during the monsoon season.

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