RAIGAD, India (AP) — Rescuers found five more bodies Friday in India’s western Maharashtra state, raising the death toll from a landslide triggered by torrential rains to at least 21 with many others feared trapped under the debris, officials said.
Scores of rescuers and trekkers have been deployed to search for people trapped by the landslide, which occurred late Wednesday night, the state’s deputy chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, tweeted. Harsh weather conditions have hampered rescue efforts and authorities have sent in medical teams to help the injured, he said.
Search operations were suspended Thursday night due to heavy rainfall plus the threat of further landslides in the dark, the National Disaster Response Force said.
It said rescuers resumed search operations on Friday and found five bodies, raising the confirmed death toll to 21.
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Ten other rescued people have been hospitalized, it said. It didn’t say how many people were feared trapped under the rubble.
An official told the Press Trust of India news agency that 75 people have been rescued and many others remain trapped.
The landslide hit Irshalwadi village in Raigad district and buried 17 of the 50 houses there.
The hilly terrain has made the task of rescuers difficult because heavy equipment to remove the rubble cannot be moved easily. From the base of the hill, it takes about 90 minutes to reach Irshalwadi due to a lack of paved roads.
India’s weather department placed Maharashtra under alert as the state was lashed by incessant rains this week. The downpours have disrupted life for many in the state, including in the capital, Mumbai, where authorities shut schools on Thursday.
Local train service has been disrupted, with water flowing inside stations and over tracks, local media reported.
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Record monsoon rains killed more than 100 people in northern India over the last two weeks, officials said, as the downpours caused roads to cave in and homes to collapse.
Monsoon rains across the country have already brought about 2% more rainfall this year than normal, the weather agency said.
India regularly experiences severe floods during the monsoon season, which runs between June and September and brings most of South Asia’s annual rainfall. The rains are crucial for rain-fed crops planted during the season but often cause extensive damage.
Scientists say monsoons are becoming more erratic because of climate change, leading to frequent landslides and flash floods in India’s Himalayan north.