Rescuers waded through waist-deep mud in western India Monday to reach injured residents and start a massive clean-up as the death toll from monsoon-triggered landslides and floods climbed to 198.
In the worst-hit state of Maharashtra, rescuers halted search operations in the hillside village of Taliye, southeast of Mumbai, where 53 bodies have been recovered. Local authorities said efforts to retrieve the bodies of 31 others still missing — after a massive landslide brought down dozens of homes on Thursday — would cease, with their names counted among the dead.
India’s west coast was hit by severe rainstorms over several days, with a quarter of a million people evacuated from their homes in three states and power cut across vast areas. Experts say climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of the annual deluge — which is critical to replenishing rivers and groundwater but also causes widespread death and destruction. “The focus has now shifted to evacuating the injured and restoring electricity as water levels recede,” a National Disaster Relief Force spokesperson told AFP. “The rainfall has stopped in most places and water levels have receded. We are helping with clean-up, relief and restoration.” In the district of Satara neighbouring Taliye, at least 29 people were killed in multiple landslides. And in Chiplun, 24 hours of uninterrupted rain caused water levels to rise by nearly 20 feet (six metres) on Thursday.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday described what happened in that district as “unimaginable”. “The water level reached the ceiling of my shop, there was so much water inside,” a shopkeeper there told Indian news broadcaster NDTV. “We’ve seen floods before in 1965 and 2005, but this was worse than before,” another resident said. Neighbouring state Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the floods were the worst since 1982, with one woman feared drowned. Further south in Karnataka state, nine people died in flooding and four others were missing, officials said. Authorities were trying to restore power to the affected districts.