India landslide death toll climbs to 92

Rescue workers Sunday discovered more bodies in the mud and debris of a devastating landslide in western India, taking the confirmed death toll to 92, an official said.

With dozens more villagers still missing, rescue workers kept up their grim search for victims of the landslide which destroyed a remote village in Maharashtra state on July 30.

“So far we have found 92 bodies and eight survivors. But we expect to find 68 more bodies,” Alok Awasthi, commandant of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), told AFP.

“About 60 percent of the area has been cleared and more than 50 percent of the rescue effort is done,” he said.

Rescue workers using diggers and other heavy machinery continued to be hampered by heavy rain, which is thought to have triggered the landslide, he said.

The “weather continues to be a big problem, it’s slowing us down”, he said of the 378-member rescue force. Around 160 people were believed to be have been living in Malin village, most of which was destroyed when the hill behind it gave way, sending down tonnes of earth and trees.

Grieving relatives have been identifying bodies and attending mass cremations at their village after losing whole families.

State home minister RR Patil promised that affected families would receive proper rehabilitation, when he visited the village late Saturday.

Disaster experts and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan have blamed the landslide on deforestation and construction work on the hills.

While India’s annual rains are a lifeline for the economy, flooding and building collapses are frequent during the monsoon season.

The northern state of Uttarakhand was hit by a landslide and flooding disaster last year that is thought to have killed nearly 6,000 pilgrims, tourists and others.

A separate landslide struck a village in neighbouring northeastern Nepal on Saturday killing at least eight people and leaving dozens missing.

Source: AFP