A day after the district administration ruled out the possibility of there being any more survivors of the landslide in Malin village, 110 km from Pune city, 26 more bodies were recovered from the debris on Friday.
Since the incident on July 30, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel said they had recovered 70 bodies in all.
“We did not stop the search operation on Thursday night…our priority is to complete the search of all the bodies which are buried under the mud and rock debris,” Alok Awasthi, commandant of the Pune unit of NDRF said.
“We have deployed more earthmovers for the search operation but the final search has to be done manually. Towards the end of the operation we will take help of the dog unit,” he added.
At least 100 to 110 more persons are still believed to be trapped under the debris. NDRF and police personnel say the search operation to recover these bodies will take at least three or four more days.
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“The assessment that it will take three to four more days is based on the ground situation and how much excavation has been done till now. But this can be extended further if weather is hostile,” S S Guleria, NDRF deputy inspector general (operations) said. Meanwhile NDRF DG Mehboob Alam visited the site of the landslide on Friday.
Pune District Collector Saurabh Rao said, “We are carrying out search operation in levels. We are coordinating the ground search with the NDRF and we are in communication with relatives of those feared killed for identification.”
Ritesh Kumar, Special Inspector General of Police (Kolhapur), said the only survivors were the eight persons rescued on the first day.
The Indian Express had reported on Thursday that one of the reasons behind the mishap could be the use of heavy machinery — for excavation and leveling — in the padkai method of farming, which traditionally involves the use of only ploughs.
“It is true that human activity was there on the hill and that can be one of the reasons. But we also should consider the heavy rainfall the previous night. A massive movement of land mass has caused the catastrophe. We feel that experts and the police should investigate the facts,” an NDRF officer said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has announced financial aid of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the victims through the chief minister’s relief fund.
Another team from the Pune fire brigade has also been dispatched along with a boat to assist the rescue operation.