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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Asia

India monsoon landslide kills 17, scores trapped

AFP | Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Rescue workers and volunteers clear the debris from the site of a landslide at Malin village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra July 30, 2014.

MUMBAI - A major landslide on Wednesday struck a village in western India following heavy monsoon rains, killing at least 17 people and leaving up to 200 feared trapped, an official said.

Emergency forces rushed to a remote village in Pune district of Maharashtra state, where a hill collapsed sending mud and rocks tumbling onto homes in the morning as residents were reportedly sleeping.

"Six victims have been rescued and 17 dead bodies recovered so far," said Tripti Parule, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Authority, in an email to AFP.

She earlier said 150 to 200 people were feared trapped, citing district officials.

Nine teams have been mobilised by the National Disaster Response Force with a strength of 378 trained personnel to help with the rescue effort in the village, Parule said, although ongoing rains have been hampering operations.

Television footage showed a chunk of hillside dramatically giving way and a cascade of mud, rocks and trees, sparking clouds of dust below. About 50 houses were thought to be damaged in the disaster.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the loss of life as "saddening" on Twitter, while footage showed workers carrying a victim on a stretcher towards vehicles as a crowd watched.

Painstaking operation

Heavy machinery has been mobilised to try to rescue those feared trapped and about 30 ambulances were rushed to the scene, local government official Saurav Rao told the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Exact number of casualties is not known as we are moving slowly to ensure that those trapped are removed safely," Rao said.

Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said the rescue operation was a challenge with the area 15-20 kilometres (nine to 12 miles) from the nearest medical facility, and the NDRF had difficulty reaching the scene because of damage caused to the roads.

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