India landslide: Hopes fade for survivors as toll rises to 66

Zubair Ahmed reports on the search for survivors after a landslide buried Malin village in western India

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Hopes of finding any more survivors from a landslide that buried a village in western India on Wednesday are fading, as the number of bodies found reaches 66, officials said.

Bad weather is hampering rescue workers who are digging through mud in Malin village near Pune in Maharashtra state.

The landslide hit the village early in the day while people were sleeping.

Eight people were rescued in the first few hours, but no survivors have been found in the past 48 hours.

A large part of a hill collapsed on Malin. Its population of 150 to 200 tribal people were covered with tonnes of loose earth, mud and rocks.

"Miracles do happen, we will keep looking, but under current conditions it is very, very bleak," AFP news agency quoted Alok Avasthy, regional commandant of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) at the scene, as saying.

By Friday, rescue workers had reached the main inhabited area and were continuing digging, the Associated Press quoted district official DD Kale as saying.

India landslide: Mother and baby saved

Malin map
Indian rescue workers work at the site of a landslide in Malin village, Pune district, Maharashtra, India, 31 July 2014. Excavators are digging through mud and debris at the scene of the landslide, looking for survivors
Members of an Indian National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team carry a body at the site of a landslide in Malin village, Pune district, Maharashtra, India, 31 July 2014 Rescue efforts are being hampered by heavy rain in Malin

Wailing relatives, mourning the loss of entire families, were at the scene, hoping and praying for some positive news. Survivors could be seen rummaging through the debris, trying to salvage their possessions.

The eight survivors are being treated in the local government hospital in Manchar town, some 60km from Malin, the BBC's Zubair Ahmed reports from Manchar.

Among them are 25-year-old Pramila Lembe and her three-month-old baby, who were rescued eight hours after the landslide.

Ms Lembe had woken up to breast-feed the baby when the landslide happened.

"I heard a loud thunder-like noise. I tried to run but the wall collapsed," she told our correspondent.

"I kept calling out for help while protecting my baby boy in my lap. Finally, rescue workers heard me and they pulled me out," she added.

The disaster in Malin only came to light when a bus passed by and the driver saw that the village had disappeared under masses of mud and earth, officials said.

Rescue operations were disrupted several times on Wednesday and Thursday after "very heavy rainfall" in the area.

Landslides are common in some parts of India during the monsoon, which runs from June to September.

More than 500 people died and several thousand people were listed as missing after floods and landslides hit the northern state of Uttarakhand in June last year.

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