Landslide toll goes up to 31, hopes of finding survivors fade

Pune: Over 24 hours after a massive landslide swamped a village in Maharashtra’s Pune district trapping about 160 people, rescuers have pulled out 31 bodies and eight injured from the debris so far as hopes of finding more survivors appeared to fade today.

The dead included 14 women and four children and the last of survivors was extricated from under the thick layers of mud and rock rubble last night, NDRF sources said. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had put the number of those trapped at 160 and, going by that figure, upto 121 people could still be under the massive mounds of debris.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Malin village, the scene of the tragedy in Ambegaon taluka, and announced an assistance of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased from the Prime Minister’s relief fund.

44 houses and a temple were flattened early last morning when loosened earth from a hillside hurtled down the slopes taking large parts of the tribal village in its sweep. Slippers, coking gas cylinders, cycle parts, wheels jutted out of the rubble as villagers and personnel of the National Disaster Response Force waged a grim battle against time and elements to rescue any survivors and locate bodies.

Chances of finding more servivors, however, appeared slim as fresh showers and bursts of torrential rain were making the task more difficult. NDRF personnel and volunteers were seen plodding through the slush as earth moving machines cleared the debris.

“About 45 houses, including a temple, are flattened under the impact of the landslide. I express my condolences to the bereaved families on behalf of the Centre. The Prime Minister has also assured all possible assistance to the state government in dealing with the natural calamity,” Rajnath Singh, who was directed by Narendra Modi to visit the site to take stock of the situation, said.

“It will be premature to comment on the reasons behind the incident before any inquiry is conducted by Geological Survey personnel,” he said when asked if deforestation and subsequent soil erosion had led to the tragedy. The Home Minister lauded the rescue work undertaken since by NDRF and state agencies and said it was estimated that it will be over within two days.

The village of about 700 odd people, meanwhile, is in mourning. Some distance away from the rumble of heavy machinery, families could be seen climbing down the the steps of the village crematorium carrying the dead as their count went up steadily.

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