A landslide triggered by heavy rains at a village in India’s western Maharashtra state has killed at least 16 people, with many others feared trapped under piles of debris.
India’s National Disaster Response Force gave the death toll on Thursday but said it had called off the rescue operations because of continuous rains and “threat of further landslide” at Irshalwadi, a mountain village in Raigad.
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Earlier, Maharashtra’s Deputy Prime Minister Devendra Fadnavisha had said a team of 60 rescuers and trained trekkers was deployed to help save people trapped by the landslide, which occurred late on Wednesday.
Some 80 people have been rescued, he added.
Locals said they feared the death toll could be higher.
“We did not count the dead bodies exactly but as per my estimate there were about 60 to 70 dead bodies. Out of which we buried about 12 to 14 bodies there itself,” volunteer rescuer Santosh Kumar Kumar told AFP news agency. His claim could not be independently verified.
Harsh weather conditions have hampered rescue efforts and authorities have sent in medical teams to help the injured.
It was estimated that at least 225 people lived in the village, Fadnavis told the state assembly.
Many others are still stuck in the hamlet, about 60km (37 miles) from the state capital, Mumbai, an official told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The landslide buried 17 of the 50 houses in the village.
State Chief Minister Eknath Shinde arrived at the site on Thursday and told reporters, “The priority now is to rescue those still trapped beneath the rubble.”
Some pockets of Raigad district, dotted with old forts and laced with trekking trails, received as much as 400mm of rain in the last 24 hours, according to the weather department.
A landslide in a nearby village killed more than 80 people two years ago.
India’s weather department has put Maharashtra and neighbouring Gujarat states on alert as the region has been lashed by incessant rains this week.
The downpours have disrupted life for many in the state, including in Mumbai where authorities on Thursday shut schools. Local train services have been disrupted with water flowing inside stations and over tracks, local media reported.
Roads have been submerged, causing traffic jams and leaving commuters stranded, as the National Disaster Response Force deployed teams across the state.
Flash floods, landslides, and accidents caused by heavy rain have killed more than 100 people in India since the onset of the monsoon season on June 1, mostly in the north which has seen 41 percent more rain than normal, the India Meteorological Department said.
This week, the Yamuna river reached the compound walls of the Taj Mahal for the first time in 45 years, submerging several historical monuments and gardens surrounding the 17th-century, white-marble mausoleum.
In New Delhi, jammed flood gates and a broken drainage regulator let water from Yamuna flow into the city last week, inundating several areas including around the historic Red Fort, and Raj Ghat – a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.