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Heavy rains triggered a landslide at a village near Pune on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people and burying about 150 under the debris.
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.
“I have lost my house and 11 people from my extended family in this catastrophe,” said Savlaram Limbe, 60, who escaped the landslide with his wife, as they had left early for their farm. “When I left, there were houses out there, when I came back, there was nothing but rocks, debris and slush.”
Rescue workers struggled to pull out bodies from under the debris because of the heavy rains. Authorities sent at least 30 ambulances and heavy machinery to the village, but only three earthmovers could get there by late evening.
“I pulled out three bodies from the rubble,” said Sachin Divekar, one of the first to reach the spot. “All the bodies were unrecognisable.” Divekar, who lives on the outskirts of Malin, said he had not seen anything more horrific in his life.
Pune collector Saurav Rao said rescue work could take up to three days, adding the chances of survival of those buried in the debris were “very slim”.
“The houses are completely buried under the debris so that the land now looks like an elevated plain,” said Rao.
The state government asked district collectors of Pune, Satara, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg to identify lanslide-prone villages and evacuate people, if necessary.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the state government would compensate all the families and if required, even rehabilitate the entire village.
Last year, torrential rains caused heavy landslides in the northern state of Uttarakhand, killing 5,000 people and displacing thousands others.