India landslide: Rescuers race to find survivors in Pune village as toll rises

India landslide: Mother and baby saved

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Rescue workers in western India are working to locate survivors of a landslide that has claimed at least 30 lives and buried up to 200 people.

Eight people have been rescued from the wreckage in Malin village, near the city of Pune in Maharashtra state.

But more than 36 hours after Wednesday morning's landslide, chances of finding more people alive appear small.

Officials say rain is hampering efforts to search for scores of people presumed trapped under the mud and debris.

The landslide hit the village early on Wednesday while people were sleeping.

On Thursday, rescuers continued their search through heavy rains, but hopes of finding any more survivors were fading.

"Miracles do happen, we will keep looking, but under current conditions it is very, very bleak," AFP news agency quoted Alok Avasthy, regional commandant of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) at the scene, as saying.

Wailing relatives, mourning the loss of entire families, are at the scene, hoping and praying for some positive news. Survivors could be seen rummaging through the debris, trying to salvage their possessions.

Among the eight people saved were 25-year-old Pramila Lembe and her three-month-old baby, who were rescued eight hours after the landslide.

"I was breast-feeding the baby when I heard a loud thunder-like clap. I tried to run but the wall collapsed," Ms Lembe told AFP while recovering in hospital.

"I held the boy somehow. I tried to shout but heard no-one," she added.

Malin map
Emergency vehicles stalled at a barricade set up by police some 35km before the site of a landslide in Malin village in Pune district, India's western state of Maharashtra, on July 30, 2014 Rescue teams had difficulty reaching the scene of the landslide due to damaged roads
A villager retrieving her belongings at the site of the landslide in India's Malin village on 30 July, 2014 Some 40 of the 70 homes in Malin have been buried in the landslide

A large part of a nearby hill collapsed on Malin, and its population of 150 to 200 tribal people were covered with tonnes of loose earth, mud and rocks.

"Everything on the mountain came down," said Suresh Jadhav, a district official, describing how a cascade of mud, rocks and uprooted trees swamped the area.

The disaster only came to light when a bus passed by and the driver saw that the village had disappeared under masses of mud and earth, officials said.

Rescue operations were disrupted several times on Thursday after "very heavy rainfall" in the area.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told the Press Trust of India news agency that more than 160 people were believed to be trapped in 44 houses buried under the rubble.

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At the scene: Devidas Deshpande, BBC Hindi

It was raining when I reached Malin village. The roads leading to it were clogged with ambulances and earth-moving vehicles.

What was once a thriving village ringed by mountains and hills has now turned into a dump of red mud and soil. The only temple here - 35ft (11m) tall - is buried in the sludge.

Rescue workers were hard at work trying to find survivors. Medics were treating the injured. As earth-movers cleared the debris, I could see the top of many homes buried in the mud.

A local villager said it had taken a lot of time for the rescue workers and their vehicles to reach the village on Wednesday.

Since most of the homes were buried with their occupants inside, there were no people at the site to claim the bodies that were being taken out.

At a local hospital, I heard doctors talking about a mass cremation of the bodies after the autopsies were completed.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the loss of lives in the landslide as "saddening". On Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh travelled to Pune to assess the situation.

Landslides are common in some parts of India during the monsoon, which runs from June to September.

More than 500 people died and several thousand people were listed as missing after floods and landslides hit the northern state of Uttarakhand in June last year.

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