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Mudslide swallows Indian village; at least 41 dead

Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014 11:50 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Indian villagers watch rescue operations at the site of a massive landslide in Malin village in Pune district of western Maharashtra state, India, Thursday, July 31, 2014. Two days of torrential rains triggered the landslide early Wednesday, killing more than two dozen people and trapping more than 150, authorities said.

MALIN, India — Rescuers using earth-moving equipment and their bare hands dug through heavy mud and debris Thursday after a landslide engulfed an entire village in western India, killing at least 41 people and leaving about 100 missing and feared dead.

More than a day 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.

Suresh Jadhav, a district official, said around 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. Bad communications, dangerous roads and debris delayed national rescue personnel from reaching the stricken area for several hours 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."

Forty-one bodies had been recovered and nine people pulled out alive, rescue official Suresh Yadav said.

Those rescued included 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.

Crowds of people from nearby areas were helping rescuers, using their 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.

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 kilometers (95 miles) 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. At least two houses were destroyed in Tehri district in the hilly Uttarakhand state, Chandola 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.

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