Rescuers in India combed through mud and debris on Saturday in a desperate search for survivors as the death toll from several monsoon-triggered landslides rose to 45, officials said.
As many as 68 other people were missing after heavy rains fell on India’s west coast, causing landslides that buried dozens of homes in the hard-hit district of Raigad, south of Mumbai. .
“Forty-three people have died in three landslides in the district … Relief operations continue,” Sagar Pathak, head of disaster management in Raigad, told AFP.
Fifty-three people were missing, he said, many of whom fear being trapped under layers of mud as a result of the accidents.
Earlier on Friday, state government spokesman Anirudha Ashtaputre told AFP that two more people had died in Satara district due to landslides.
Elsewhere in the state, as many as 15 people were also missing, state officials said.
The Navy, Army and Air Force sought to evacuate those stranded by the flooding, but their operations were hampered by landslides blocking roads, including the main highway between Mumbai and Goa .
Water levels reached 3.5 meters (12 feet) on Thursday in areas of Chiplun, a city 250 kilometers (160 miles) from Mumbai, after 24 hours of uninterrupted rain that caused the Vashishti River to overflow, submerging roads and houses.
Maharashtra State Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said rescuers were struggling to reach remote areas of Chiplun, due to damage to roads and bridges.
The Navy deployed seven rescue teams equipped with inflatable boats, life jackets and lifebuoys to the affected areas, as well as specialized divers and a helicopter to airlift stranded residents.
India’s meteorological department has issued red alerts for several areas of the state, indicating that heavy rainfall will continue over the next few days.
Floods and landslides are common during India’s dangerous monsoon season between June and September, which also often sees poorly constructed buildings and walls warp after days of uninterrupted rain.
Four people died before dawn on Friday when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum, authorities said.
The incident came less than a week after at least 34 people lost their lives when several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide in the city.
Rainwater also flooded a water purification complex last weekend, disrupting supplies “in most areas of Mumbai”, a megalopolis of 20 million people, city officials said.
Climate change is strengthening the Indian monsoons, according to a report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) released in April.
The report warns of potentially serious consequences for food, agriculture and the economy affecting nearly a fifth of the world’s population.
© 2021 AFP