July 2014 – INDIA – The confirmed death toll from Wednesday’s mudslide in western India has reached 21, with a further 129 people feared trapped in the wreckage of houses flattened during the incident. Seven teams of 42 rescue workers each worked through the night at Malin village, 35 miles (60km) from the city of Pune in Maharashtra state. However, their efforts were hampered by incessant rain, mud and poor communications in the remote area. Four earth-moving machines scooped out mud spread over an area the size of a football pitch. The frame of a motorbike floated by on a torrent of mud, a suggestion bodies could well be underneath. Small streams flowed into the area from surrounding hills. The hillside above the village collapsed on Wednesday and heavy rain raised fears of another landslide. The head of rescue operations at the national disaster response force said 21 bodies had so far been recovered, with 129 people feared trapped under the mud that covered dozens of houses. “We have mapped the 46 houses and are trying to remove the mud from the most densely populated areas,” said operations Chief Alok Avasthy.
The local school, one of the only roofed buildings to survive, was put into service as a makeshift shelter for rescue workers, while police were stationed in trucks to provide backup. Rainy season downpours, though vital for India’s agriculture, can often bring disaster. Unprecedented rain in June last year wreaked havoc across Uttarakhand state in the Himalayas, causing rivers and lakes to burst their banks, inundating towns and villages and killing thousands. Environmentalists say construction of hydro-electric dams, involving blasting tunnels through mountains to carry diverted flows of water, deforestation and the spread of unregulated buildings along river banks magnify the impact of heavy rains. –Guardian