In one of the biggest natural disasters in Mahrashtra, a massive landslide precipitated by over 400mm of rainfall flattened a remote tribal hamlet named Irshalwadi in Khalapur tehsil in the foothills of the Sahyadri range in Raigad district on Wednesday night. Rescuers have retrieved 16 bodies but nearly 100 are believed to have been swept under torrents of mud and rock in their sleep.
The 16 dead include 12 adults and 4 children of which eight are males and eight females. Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)’s 5th battalion from Pune headed by its commanding officer SB Singh are leading the rescue operation along with other relief agencies at the site which is not accessible by a motorable road. NDRF teams rescued 21 villagers and some livestock including a bullock.
Karjat sub divisional officer Ajit Nairale said houses of 18 families were damaged and seven others partly. An incessant downpour slowed down rescue work and prevented exacavators from being transported to the hilly site. Singh said the rescue operation was called off on Thursday evening and will restart on Friday morning. There is no landing possibility to airlift excavation machinery using airforce aircraft, given the hill terrain and bad weather. Singh said there is a little chance of survival of the victims, whoever are trapped. The exact number of trapped persons remains unclear.
The hilly settlement near Karjat consisted of 48 Thakur households dependant on agriculture, livestock anf farmwork. Officials said 88 villagers are believed to have survived. Chief minister Eknath Shinde rushed to site and later walked up to the landslide hit zone to take stock. He said the administration were trying to trace all those missing. He announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the next kin of the deceased and asked for shelters to be arranged for the survivors.
Located 80 km from Mumbai at the foothills of Irshalgad fort, Irshalwadi is a far flung settlement in Khalapur tehsil near Karjat. Motorised vehicles such as JCBs and cranes could not immediately reach the disaster site.
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