Relatives of ill-fated villagers of Malin in Ambegaon taluka of Pune district had a harrowing time reaching the village due to traffic snarls blocking the narrow road to the village. Till late on Wednesday night, many scrambled for ways and means to reach the village to get news of near and dear ones.
Ravi Talpe, president, Adivasi Sanghatna Federation, feared that he may have lost 35 close relatives. “My sister was married in that village 13 years back. But she had been staying in Pune and her husband had gone to Solapur…I don’t think there is any chance of survival in the huge mound of mud,” said Talpe, an activist.
His sister Jaishree Dhangat said, “I have been trying to get to the area since morning, but have not been successful. I am stuck in Dimbe dam area…” she said. Talpe said in some way or the other, all the villagers were related to him. “In the past, no such incident had ever happened in the village. This came suddenly and without warning. Most of the villagers were either farmers or farm hands,” he said.
Kailas Murmure was seen walking 20 km from the Dimbe dam to reach the village to get news of his sister and brother-in-law. “The police are not allowing any vehicles to pass beyond Dimbe dam and there is no other way but walk the distance. The remote village catches no mobile signals, so I have not been able to get any news,” he said. Murmure’s sister and brother-in-law were in Pune and had rushed to the spot after hearing the news. Another youth who was walking to the village said his 65-year-old aunt and her 25-year-old son stayed in the village.
“Last time I met them was about two months back. Since there is no connectivity in the village, I could not speak to them for two months,” he said. “From information I am getting from people who reached the site, I don’t think they will be alive,” he said.
The district administration apparently woke up late, as a huge crowd in an array of vehicles had already descended at the spot, leading to a 10-km traffic snarl. The ambulances found it difficult to cut through traffic and carry the injured to the nearest hospital in Machar, about 60 km away. Also, too many ambulances rushed to the site, but the district administration said they had not requisitioned all of them. “I think several of them from voluntary organisations rushed to the spot after hearing of the tragedy.”
Meanwhile, Tribal Welfare Minister Madhurkar Picchad said he would ask the authorities to take steps to evacuate the villages near hill tops or hill slopes.
Located at 619 metres above mean sea level, the village is accessible only through a small hilly road. Due to the sudden influx of vehicles, including ambulances and police vehicles, the road was clogged, which led the district police to stop entry of vehicles at various points. Only vehicles carrying aid or rescue personnel or ministers were allowed. Many relatives were seen begging for rides to the village. As per the police, due to the traffic snarl, majority of vehicles were stuck 5 km outside the village.
Picchad said he would talk to the authorities to evacuate the villages on the hill top or hill slopes of the area.
“There are around four to five such villages and they have to be evacuated to prevent any such tragedy,” he said.
First to reach village, bus driver alerted others
After the landslide in Malin village, the first to reach it from outside was a Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) bus driver. He reached the reached village around 8 in the morning on Wednesday. The driver, Rajendra Kale, reported the incident to his depot and later the local police and district administration were informed.
The bus from the Narayangaon Depot of the MSRTC makes the trip from Manchar town to Ahupe village which is located in Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary. The bus has a stop at Malin village.
According to local police, when the bus came to Malin village, Kale could see that the approach road to the village, between two hills was blocked by debris from the landslide.
The entire western side of the village could not be seen.
Kale first called the bus depot and told them about the calamity. By 9 am, the local police and district administration was informed about the incident.
By then some villagers from neighbouring villages reached Malin for help. NDRF was informed around 10 am and by around 12 noon their teams had reached the spot.