Rescue workers and volunteers clear the debris from the
landslide site. REUTERS/Stringer
Rescuers in India waded waist-deep through swirling
sludge to dig their way into dozens of submerged homes and find
more than 100 people swallowed up by a landslide that flattened
almost an entire village.
The confirmed death toll was 35 from Wednesday's (local time)
landslide on a hill above Malin village, said H.H. Chauhan,
deputy director of health services in the district where the
village is located.
Medical staff and residents tried to cremate the dead by a
river flowing past the village, but the wood was too damp
from incessant rain and did not burn.
Not a single survivor has been pulled from the site.
The head of rescue operations at the National Disaster
Response Force said 125 people were feared trapped. Rain and
poor communications hampered the teams working in the
village, 60 km (35 miles) from the city of Pune in a remote
part of Maharashtra state.
"We have mapped the 46 houses and are trying to remove the
mud from the most densely populated areas," said operations
chief Alok Avasthy. Most dwellings were thatch huts or brick
Seven teams of 42 workers each fanned out across the vast
pool and four earth moving machines scooped out mud spread
over an area the size of a soccer pitch.
Emergency teams lined a path along a river, one of several
flowing into the area from hills, looking for bodies that
might have been washed away. The frame of a motorbike floated
by on a torrent of mud, an indication that bodies could be
A handful of residents escaped as the hill came down.
Meenabai Lembe, injured by falling pieces of wood, was pulled
to safety by her husband, who had been working in nearby
fields. She knew nothing about her two children and her
mother-in-law, who were asleep in the house when the
"I heard a loud noise, like thunder, and couldn't understand
what was happening," said Lembe, who is being treated for
injuries at a rural clinic.
Heavy rain raised fears of another landslide.
The village school, one of the only roofed buildings to
survive, was pressed into service as a makeshift shelter for
rescue workers, while police were stationed in trucks to
A senior district official, Saurabh Rao, said the region had
received 118 mm (more than 4.5 inches) of rain the day before
the incident. A team of geologists was trying to determine
the cause of the landslide, Rao said.
Rainy season downpours, though vital for agriculture, can
often bring disaster. Unprecedented rain last year wreaked
havoc across Uttarakhand state in the Himalayas, swelling
rivers and lakes, inundating towns and killing thousands.
Environmentalists say construction of hydro-electric dams,
involving blasting tunnels through mountains to carry
diverted flows of water, deforestation and the spread of
unregulated buildings along river banks magnify the impact of