Death toll hits 51 in Indian mudslide

2014-08-01 07:51
Indian officials collate information to identify bodies as they work in a temporary mortuary in Malin. (File, AFP)

Indian officials collate information to identify bodies as they work in a temporary mortuary in Malin. (File, AFP)

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Malin - Heavy rains hampered efforts on Friday by hundreds of rescue workers digging through heavy mud and debris, as the death toll from a landslide that engulfed an entire village in western India rose to 51.

Rescuers are still looking for about 100 people missing and feared dead, after another 10 bodies were pulled out of the debris overnight.

"We have reached the main inhabited area and are continuing efforts", one district official, D D Kale, said on Friday.

There has been no let-up in the rain this week, he said.

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

Kale said the bodies of 22 women, 23 men and six children have been recovered so far.

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

Two days of torrential rains triggered the landslide and continued to pound the area as rescuers brought bodies covered in soaked white sheets to ambulances while relatives watched, weeping.

'Roar of rocks'

Initial rescue work had been delayed by bad communications, dangerous roads and debris in the remote area. The disaster came to light only when a bus driver passed by and saw that the village had disappeared under masses of mud and earth.

Only eight people have been pulled out alive, said Yadav, including a mother and her 3-month-old son whose cries caught the attention of rescue workers on Wednesday.

Pramila Lende, the mother, said she was feeding the baby when she heard the roar of rocks and mud hurtling down the hillside.

"I started running with my child but a heap of mud landed on my body", she said. She kept the baby in an area with breathing space until his cries were heard, she said.

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 house alive.

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

About 250 disaster response workers and at least 100 ambulances were involved in the rescue effort, officials said.

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 about 100 people were still missing.

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 150km southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital.

On Thursday, heavy rains hit a remote mountainous village in northern India and killed five people, said Amit Chandola, a spokesman for the state government. The village is 300km 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.

Read more on:    india  |  natural disasters

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