Home minister Rajnath Singh reached Pune on Wednesday night to take an overview of the rescue operations at Malin village which was buried in a landslide, killing at least 21 people and trapping more than 160, officials said.
Heavy monsoon rains have lashed the hills in the area the past few days, causing rocks and mud to loosen and tumble down on houses at Malin village, 80km from Pune. Authorities fear that the death toll could mount as most of the 67 houses in the village were buried under a 25 feet pile of rocks and mud.
According to district administration officials, 21 bodies have been recovered so far.
Accompanied by Vinod Tawde, leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra legislative council, and other officials, Rajnath Singh will travel to the disaster site on Thursday morning.
Read: Landslide hits village near Pune, rescue works on | People died in their sleep, say survivors |
Depending on the prevailing weather conditions, Rajnath Singh may make an aerial survey of the disaster site at Malin.
Earlier on Wednesday evening, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, assembly Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil and ministers Harshavardhan Patil and Madhukarrao Pichad visited the site and directed the rescue operations.
Dead bodies being recovered from the site by National Disaster Management at Malin village in Pune district, Maharashtra. (HT photos)
A 300-strong team, comprising the National Disaster Response Force, Maharashtra Disaster Response Force, police, villagers and political activists, braved inclement weather and frantically searched for trapped people under stones, boulders and sticky mud.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the tragedy.
Heavy rain, which has lashed the picturesque region over the past four days, continued to hamper relief operations the whole day and prevented rescuers from approaching the accident site as, due to the flowing water, the mud kept shifting.
Read: Chavan says focus is on saving maximum lives
The villagers sleeping in their homes were caught unawares and many continue to be trapped under the mud, boulders and debris, said Walse-Patil.
An army team was also sent from Pune.
District officials said people in around half a dozen other villages in the hilly neighbourhood are being evacuated as a precautionary measure.
An elderly woman cries as she searches for surviving family members in the debris of her home, destroyed by landslide in Malin village, in Maharashtra. (AP photo/PTI photo)
(With inputs from IANS)