Landslide buries small village in India; 21 bodies recovered
Posted: July 31, 2014 at 5:25 a.m.
NEW DELHI -- Rescuers worked in rain today 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.
They had already worked through the night using floodlights mounted on jeeps and earthmoving equipment to pull seven injured people out of the mud and twisted wreckage, Vitthal Banot, a disaster-management official, said today. They were taken to a nearby government-run hospital, but their injuries were not life-threatening.
But continuing rains and bad roads were hampering rescue efforts in Ambegaon, a village in Pune district in Maharashtra state, said Alok Avasthy, a National Disaster Response Force commander.
Banot said 21 bodies -- 11 men and 10 women -- had been recovered from under mud, rocks, trees and other debris.
"Everything on the mountain came down," said Suresh Jadhav, a district official.
But 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.
The landslide hit early Wednesday, but details of the damage only began to trickle out several hours later. The area received 4.25 inches of rain Tuesday, with a heavy downpour continuing through Wednesday.
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.
Some 250 disaster-response personnel were in the area assisting police and medical teams who began clearing the debris. At least 100 ambulances also were sent to the area, Jadhav said.
Large crowds of people from nearby villages also were helping rescue workers move fallen trees and rocks with bare hands, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Pune district is about 95 miles southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital. The nearest medical center is about 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 as well.
Last year, more than 6,000 people were killed as floods and landslides swept through the hilly northern state of Uttarakhand during the monsoon season.
A Section on 07/31/2014