PUNE: At least 18 people were killed when landslides, triggered by relentless rains, struck a village near here today, burying over 160 as rescuers looked for survivors and bodies in the mud-and-rock debris battling rough weather.
As many as 400 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are engaged in rescue efforts at Malin village, the scene of the tragedy in Ambegaon taluka, some 120km from the district headquarters here in Western Maharashtra.
According to NDRF Control Room, 18 people have died and eight injured in the tragedy. The injured were pulled out of the rubble and admitted to a primary health centre nearby.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said over 160 people were believed to be trapped in the 44 houses buried under the debris after large parts of a hillside collapsed on them early this morning.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to visit the village tomorrow, according to a BJP spokesman.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the tragedy and asked Singh to rush to Pune to take stock of the situation.
"The Prime Minister has condoled the loss of lives in the landslide and directed all possible efforts to help the affected people," a PMO statement said in Delhi. Large earth-moving machinery have been pressed into service but rescuers are moving slowly to avoid causing harm to the possible survivors, Pune Collector Saurav Rao said, adding the operation to clear the rubble was on. Crowds gathered at the spot and villagers could be seen moving fallen trees and rocks with bare hands to assist NDRF personnel in rescue efforts.
Scores of JCB machines, dumpers and ambulances have been pressed into service to clear the rubble and shift the dead and survivors to hospitals, Rao said.