17 people were killed and 200 feared trapped as 44 houses in Malin village in the Ambegaon tehsil of Pune district were flattened by a landslide that hit early Wednesday morning after torrential rain.Among those trapped were 60 women and 60 children, officials said, adding that they feared the death toll would go up.
Though the landslide occurred at 4am, news of the damage reached the district administration only after several hours as the village is part of a remote tribal belt, said Dilip Walse-Patil, speaker of the legislative assembly and legislator from the area, who visited the spot later. The village, located close to the backwaters of the Dimbhe dam, is 30km from the famous Bhimashankar temple and 75km from Pune.
Seven teams from the National Disaster Response Force were rushed to the spot but the hilly terrain, narrow access road, heavy rain and mountains of slush and mud created logistical problems in reaching those affected. By late Wednesday evening, the NDRF had rescued 8 villagers and pulled out 17 bodies from the debris. The injured villagers were shifted to the sub-district hospital at Manchar and Sassoon General Hospital in Pune.
Environmentalists said large-scale deforestation had made the place vulnerable. Landslide expert Satish Thigale, who has studied the Bhimashankar area, said, “The root cause of the landslide appears to be levelling of land on the hill for cultivation and uprooting of trees.