Updated: 07/30/2014 17:43 | By Agence France-Presse

Five dead, 150 feared trapped in India monsoon landslide

A major landslide on Wednesday struck a village in western India following heavy monsoon rains, killing at least five people and leaving up to 150 feared trapped, officials said.


Five dead, 150 feared trapped in India monsoon landslide

A mudslide surrounds a building in Malin village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, on July 30, 2014

Emergency forces rushed to remote Malin village in the Pune district of Maharashtra state, where debris from a hill collapsed onto homes in the morning while residents were sleeping.

"Five bodies have been recovered and 125 to 150 are still trapped," Satish Lalit, a spokesman for the Maharashtra chief minister's office, told AFP.

Alok Avasthy, regional commandant at the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), also said up to 150 were feared trapped by the landslide, which damaged about 50 houses.

He said that it was difficult to confirm casualties as the village has been cut off from communications. Rains were also hampering rescue operations.

Indian television station CNN-IBN said as well as five people killed in the landslide, another five have been rescued. 

Television footage showed the side of a hill shaved off, with large amounts of mud, muddy water and logs piled below.

Heavy machinery has been mobilised to try to rescue those feared trapped, while about 30 ambulances 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 from the nearest medical facility, but he said it should speed up once the NDRF teams arrive. 

Heavy rains have been falling for days in Maharashtra as a result of the annual monsoon. 

Nearly 6,000 pilgrims, tourists and others are believed to have died when flash floods and landslides struck northern India last June.

The victims were swept away when floods caused by torrential monsoon rains hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, destroying entire villages and towns.

Raging rivers flattened houses and buildings in the state, which was packed with travellers in what was a peak tourist season.

Building collapses are a common occurrence in India, especially during the rainy season, with millions living in dilapidated old structures or newly built but illegal constructions made from substandard material.

An apartment tower under construction came crashing down in the southern city of Chennai late June following heavy rains, killing 61, mostly labourers.

A similar accident on the outskirts of Mumbai last year left 74 dead.

British daily The Guardian last year gathered statistics showing that 2,651 people were killed across India in 2012 from the collapse of 2,737 structures, including houses and bridges.

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