Landslides kill at least 20 in India's Assam state

Fears death toll could rise after heavy pre-monsoon rains trigger mudslides that buried homes in Barak Valley.

    People gather at the site of a landslide in Udarband village, Cachar district in the Barak Valley of southern Assam state after three days of incessant pre-monsoon rains [AFP]
    People gather at the site of a landslide in Udarband village, Cachar district in the Barak Valley of southern Assam state after three days of incessant pre-monsoon rains [AFP]

    At least 20 people have been killed and seven injured after landslides triggered by heavy pre-monsoon rains buried their homes in northeastern India's Assam state.

    Seven of the victims in the incident in Barak Valley were members of a single family, M S Manivannan, head of the state disaster management authority, said on Tuesday. Those injured were taken to hospital, and their medical condition was not immediately clear

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    Officials said rescue workers feared they may find more bodies trapped by the landslides and the toll could rise.

    "Rescue operations are still on to ascertain if any more people are trapped under the debris," Manivannan said.

    The mudslides occurred in the districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, large parts of which share borders with Bangladesh. The hilly terrain in the region makes it prone to landslides after heavy rain.

    Floods in India's northeast are an annual phenomenon, but the monsoon season there usually falls between July and September.

    Pre-monsoon rains have caused rivers to flood in large parts of Assam, with at least 10 deaths reported so far.

    The state's main river, Brahmaputra, and its many tributaries flood heavily each year, forcing many to take shelter on higher ground.

    Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the state's highest elected official, has been touring flood-hit areas to inspect relief and rescue operations in the last few days.

    SOURCE: News agencies