A landslide triggered by torrential rains in the western Indian state of Maharashtra killed at least 10 people late Wednesday night, with more than 100 feared trapped under debris, as rescue workers battled difficult terrain and heavy downpours searching for survivors.
On Thursday, rescuers struggled as they pulled corpses from homes at the site of the landslide, in Irshalwadi village, which is about 37 miles from Mumbai.
So far, about 80 people have been rescued, but many more were feared trapped. The village is home to at least 225 people, and the authorities said they were airlifting excavators to assist rescuers who trekked 1.5 miles from the nearest highway to reach the village. In some areas, the debris is 10 to 30 feet deep.
“We are prioritizing people still trapped beneath the rubble,” said Eknath Shinde, the chief minister of Maharashtra State, who arrived at the site on Thursday.
Heavy rainfall and flash flooding have been tearing through the west of the country, burying homes, knocking down trees, canceling trains and forcing regional authorities to shut schools.
India has been hit hard by extreme weather conditions in recent years, raising fears about the effects of climate change accelerating and bringing irreversible changes to weather patterns, scientists say.
This year, the monsoon season, which is when South Asia receives most of its annual rainfall and which runs between June and September, has caused large-scale devastation from states straddling the Himalayas to coastal states like Maharashtra.
The state of Maharashtra was put on alert by the India Meteorological Department on Thursday. In addition to closing schools, the recent deluge has halted the operation of more than 100 trains, as water flowed into stations and onto the tracks in many places.
Western India hasn’t been alone in contending with the aftermath of torrential rains. Record levels of monsoon rains in northern India have killed at least 130 people in the last 26 days, government officials have reported. Of those, 99 were killed in Himachal Pradesh alone, with five more deaths reported on Wednesday, according to Jagat Singh Negi, a state official.
Himachal Pradesh State has been the scene of large-scale death and destruction. Long stretches of road have been washed away, loosened earth from landslides has flowed into people’s homes, and some areas are still waterlogged and experiencing gridlocked traffic.
On Wednesday, rising water from the Yamuna River reached the outer walls of the Taj Mahal in Agra and submerged an adjacent garden.
More than 100,000 people have been affected and nine people killed in floods this monsoon season in Assam, a northeastern state, and floodwater has also entered Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, according to Bitupon Gagoi, an information officer from Guwahati, the state capital.
Since April, at least 747 people have been killed by flash floods, drowning, lightning and landslides, according to India’s federal home ministry.
C.C. Patel, a senior officer for the Relief Department in Gujarat State, which borders Maharashtra, said that thousands of people from low-lying parts of his state had been evacuated to safer areas.
“More rains have taken place this year in a short period than in full monsoon season,” he said.