Rescue teams rush to landslide site

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New Delhi - A major landslide on Wednesday struck a village in western India following heavy monsoon rains, leaving 150 people feared trapped, a rescue official said.

Emergency forces rushed to the remote Malin village in the Pune district of Maharashtra state, where debris from a hill collapsed onto homes in the morning while residents were sleeping.

“Civil authorities say around 42 to 50 houses are affected... 150 people are feared trapped. We have sent two teams,” Alok Avasthy, regional commandant at the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), told AFP.

He said that it was difficult to confirm casualties as the village has been cut off from communications.

Indian television station CNN-IBN said five people were killed in the landslide while another five have been rescued.

Television footage showed the side of a hill shaved off, with large amounts of mud, muddy water and logs piled below.

Heavy machinery has been mobilised to try to rescue those feared trapped, while about 30 ambulances have been rushed to the scene, local government official Saurav Rao told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“Exact number of casualties is not known as we are moving slowly to ensure that those trapped are removed safely,” district collector Rao said.

Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said the rescue operation was a challenge with the area about 20km from the nearest medical facility, but he said it should speed up once the NDRF teams arrived.

Heavy rains have been falling for days in Maharashtra as a result of the annual monsoon.

Nearly 6 000 pilgrims, tourists and others are believed to have died when flash floods and landslides struck northern India last June.

The victims were swept away when floods caused by torrential monsoon rains hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, destroying entire villages and towns.

Raging rivers flattened houses and buildings in the state, which was packed with travellers in what was a peak tourist season.

Building collapses are a common occurrence in India, especially during the rainy season, with millions living in dilapidated old structures or newly built but illegal constructions made from substandard material.

British daily The Guardian last year gathered statistics showing that 2 651 people were killed across India in 2012 from the collapse of 2 737 structures, including houses and bridges. - AFP



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