PUNE: A massive landslide of a hillock killed as many as twenty five residents of Malin village, located some 120 km from Pune on Wednesday morning. The incident took place between 7.30 am to 8 am in the morning. Between 150 -200 villagers are feared buried under the debris in the village even as rescuers sprung into action searching for dead bodies and survivors.
According to the The survivors said that they heard a loud sound at the time of the incident and saw a huge debris crashing down over the entire village which comprises of 48 houses. The impact was such that only the spire of the 35 feet high village temple could be seen with the eyes as the entire village got submerged in the landslide with wet mud and water all over the place.
The crash occured when the villagers were busy with the morning household chores or sleeping and had no time to escape to safety.The villagers are mostly dam affected people who have been settled in the area as a part of the district administration rehabilitation process. Eyewitnesses said that it had been raining heavily for the past two to three days and a large portion of the hillock caved in due to incessant waterlogging in and around its area.
Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh termed the incident as big tragedy and said that the state government has taken steps to ensure that relief and rescue operations will be carried round the clock till all the missing persons were traced. " over 150 persons are still under the debris and seventeen bodies have been recovered so far. The hillock crashed due to heavy downpour and most of the victims were sleeping at the time of the incident , " he added.
No sooner than the news spread than scores of villagers from the nearby Dimbe and Ghodegaon villages rushed to the spot with bulldozers and rescue implements.However, the move led to traffic jam which could be seen ten kms covering the entire ghat section. Pratap Belhaware, a nearby villager said that the news reached ghodegaon in some time after which he and some villagers rushed to the spot and could reach only by9.30 am . " It was a tragic site and we could see only mud and water around . It was fearsome sight to see mud debris cascading down the hill even an hour after the incident. Fifteen bodies were pulled out by 3 o clock and JCB were pressed into action to carry out search operations, " he added.
The approach road to the village is extremely narrow making commuting a herculean task. The rural police stopped traffic and disallowed vehicles to go to the village and even Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had to walk a large distance before reaching the village.
Police has cordon off the whole area so that rescue operations should not hamper. Pune Rural SP Manoj Lohia who is camping at the spot overseeing rescue operations, said that the death toll could rise taking into account a large number of people who were in the house when the debris crashed. " A joint rescue operation is underway with the police, fire brigade personnel, NDRF personnel and the district administration participating with all their resources to find out the missing persons. The rescue operation is likely to continue for next forty eight hours, " he added.
Additional SP Vijay Kumar Magar said that around 500 persons mostly dam affected people were settled in the village. " According to the information available, 168 persons are still under the debris which include 61 children, 60 women and 37 males. Though there is an issue of mobility due to traffic congestion at the end of the ghat section, rescue work is going on smoothly at the top. There were 48 houses in the village which came under the spell of the falling debris ," he added.
Politicians rush to the spot..
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted about the tragedy, 'Loss of lives in landslide in Pune dist. is saddening. Spoke to Rajnathji & he would be travelling to Pune to take stock of the situation," a slew of politicians rushed to take stock of the situation.
One of the first to reach the spot was Assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil, under whose constituency the area falls and who trudged five kilometers to reach the remote spot. Even chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar rushed to the spot while Union Home Minister will be visiting the area today.
Meanwhile politicians took to Twitter to express their shock and grief.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted, "Deeply hurt with the loss of lives in a landslide in Pune Distt. My heartfelt condolences for the bereaved. We'll study the reasons behind the landslide and take appropriate action thereafter."
While state co-operative minister Harshvardhan Patil tweeted, "I was shocked when I heard news of landslide at Ambegaon. I am deeply saddened on the loss of lives due to landslide. I have cancelled all my meetings today as I am on the way to the landslide affected Malin village. - Harshawardhan Patil
Loss of communication lines
Efforts were on to restore communication lines disrupted due to landslide and heavy downpour. While rescuers are racing against time to pull out as many survivors as they can before darkness sets in, a helpline had been set up in Pune for co-ordination efforts and for relatives of missing persons.
The help line no is 020-26120720