Five days after a devastating landslide swept away 40 homes in Malin village in Pune’s Amebgaon taluka, the death toll has risen to 103 on Sunday evening. Over 100 people are still feared to be trapped under debris but their chances of survival with each passing minute. So far, eight people have been rescued.
Rescue operations are still underway with National Disaster Response Force teams working to remove the debris but the rains have covered the site with mud and slush which is hampering operations.
The landslide is believed to have been triggered due to incessant rainfall and deforestation.
Making a statement on the landslide in Parliament, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said that the government will appoint a team of experts to study the area. As per experts, deforestation over the years has resulted in the soil giving way, leading to the disaster.
A total of 50 ambulances, 30 dumpers and 20 JCBs have been pressed into service for rescue and relief work while nine teams of NDRF comprising about 380 personnel are at the spot, he said. In addition, 300 labourers were mobilised from municipal corporations of Junner and Alandi. Rescue teams are also armed with flood lights and necessary equipment.
Singh, who visited the village on Thursday, announced an assistance of Rs. 2 lakh to the relatives of the deceased from the PM Relief Fund.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also announced a financial aid of Rs. 5 lakh to the family of the victims from the CM Relief fund.
Free medical treatment will be given to the injured and proper rehabilitation of the village will be done on priority, the CM’s office said.
“Some human intervention is there. I have come to know that there are some paddy plantations in the area. The slopes have been cut and there is environmental degradation. We cannot ignore that,” said Harbans Singh, Director General, Geological Survey of India.
A case has been registered against the local agriculture officer for allowing cutting of a slope right above the village. But the administration is yet to begin risk mitigation measures for other villages.
Many residents have left their homes out of fear, but some, despite losing everything, have no option but to return.
“We will have to come back as our agricultural land is here,” said Govind Ramrao Zanzare, a resident of Malin village.
“We are scared to live here. It can happen any time and it will affect us,” Santosh Kharat, another villager.
While Malin village is yet to come to terms with the tragedy, the landslide has reignited the debate on environmental degradation due to construction on the Western Ghats.