21 killed in India landslide

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Thursday, July 31, 2014


NEW DELHI -- Rescuers worked in rain Thursday to dig through a remote village in western India where at least 21 people died as a landslide swept away scores of houses, possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said.

National Disaster Response Force commander Alok Avasthy said continuing rains and bad roads were hampering rescue efforts in Ambegaon, a village in Pune district in Maharashtra state.

Banot said 21 bodies (11 men and 10 women) had been recovered from under mud, rocks, trees and other debris.

The landslide hit Wednesday morning, but details of the damage only began to trickle out several hours later. The area received 10.8 centimeters (4.25 inches) of rain Tuesday, with a heavy downpour continuing through Wednesday.

"Everything on the mountain came down," said Suresh Jadhav, a district official, describing how a cascade of mud, rocks and uprooted trees swamped the area.

About 250 disaster response personnel were in the area assisting local police and medical teams who began clearing the debris. At least 100 ambulances were also sent to the area, Jadhav added.

With 70 homes buried and reports of another 158 hit by the landslide, rescuers anticipated more dead in the village, home to 704 people in the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains.

Vitthal Banot, a disaster management official said they had already worked through the night using floodlights mounted on jeeps and earthmoving vehicles to pull seven injured people out of the mud and twisted wreckage.

Large crowd of people from nearby villages reached the spot and helped rescue workers in moving fallen trees and rocks with bare hands, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the loss of lives in Maharashtra state 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.

"It is a small village and this happened very suddenly," local legislator Dilip Walse Patil told CNN-IBN TV network. One local commissioner, Prabhakar Deshmukh, earlier said that more than 150 people could be trapped.

Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September.

Pune district is about 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital. The nearest medical center is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the village.

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.

On Thursday, heavy rains hit a remote mountainous village in a 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 kilometers (200 miles) 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. (AP)

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