Rescue workers and desperate villagers dug through deep mud, rocks and the debris of shattered homes Thursday after a massive landslide buried a remote village in western India, killing at least 25 people and trapping more than 150, authorities said.
Two days of torrential rains triggered the landslide early Wednesday, but national rescue personnel could not reach the stricken area in Pune district of Maharashtra state for several hours because of bad communications, dangerous roads and debris.
“Everything on the mountain came down,” said Suresh Jadhav, a district official.
He said the disaster only came to light when a bus driver passed by and saw that the village had been wiped out.
“The driver returned to a nearby city and alerted authorities,” Jadhav said.
Sachin Tamboli, a National Disaster Response Force official, said 25 bodies had been recovered from Malin village and eight wounded people pulled out alive. Crowds of people from nearby areas were helping rescuers, using their bare hands to move fallen trees and rocks.
Overnight, emergency workers used flood lights mounted on jeeps to illuminate the disaster area, where the tangled roofs of homes poked up through thick mud.
Rescuers expected the death toll to rise in the village, which is home to 704 people in the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains. About 150 people were believed to be trapped.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the loss of lives and said all possible efforts must be made to help the victims, according to a statement from his office. He sent Home Minister Rajnath Singh to the disaster area.
About 250 disaster response workers and at least 100 ambulances were involved in the rescue effort, Jadhav said.
Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September. The area around the village has been deforested extensively, increasing its vulnerability to landslides. Similar deforestation and environmental damage have caused floods and landslides in other parts of India.
Pune district is about 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital.
On Thursday, heavy rains hit a remote mountainous village in northern India and six members of a family were feared dead, said police officer Pravin Tamta. Police have recovered two bodies and were searching for four others in Tehri district in the hilly Uttarakhand state, Tamta said. The village is 300 kilometers (200 miles) north of New Delhi.
Last year, more than 6,000 people were killed as floods and landslides swept through Uttarakhand state during the monsoon season.