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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mahad landslide: 31 bodies stay buried, search op called off at the residents’ request

The operation was stopped at the request of village residents, who preferred for the bodies to remain buried rather than pulled out in a mutilated or decomposed condition.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Taliye (raigad) |
Updated: July 27, 2021 5:46:11 am
On Monday morning, all village residents gave their statement in writing as well as in video after which the district administration called off the search operation. (Representational Image)

GARLANDS of marigold and roses were placed on the slush as a mark of respect for 31 bodies that could not be retrieved from under the debris of a landslide that hit Taliye village on July 22. The landslide in Raigad district’s Mahad taluka instantly buried 84 people. Rescuers managed to retrieve 53 bodies before officially calling a halt to the four-day operation on Monday.

The operation was stopped at the request of village residents, who preferred that the bodies remain buried rather than pulled out in a mutilated or decomposed condition. Under still falling rain, the bereaved lined up to pay their last respects at the heap of flowers in a sombre ceremony that the village accepted as a mass funeral.

“After the administration declared them dead, we paid homage to those not found, same as we did to the bodies that were found. Final rites and rituals will also be conducted at the same site where the mishap happened,” said village sarpanch Sampat Chandekar.

Late on Sunday, Taliye residents discussed the issue with the local MLA, district collector, teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Target Disaster Response Force (TDRF). It was decided that the operation will be called off only after officially obtaining the consent of every missing person’s family, and after rescue teams issue a formal communication declaring all those missing as dead.

On Monday morning, relatives of people whose bodies could not be found gave their statement in writing as well as in video after which the district administration called off the search operation.

“We have withdrawn our rescue teams from Taliye. The 31 people missing will be declared dead, following due process. All relatives of missing persons demanded that the operation be closed. Hence, after seeking the opinion of NDRF/SDRF/TDRF and respecting the sentiments of survivors and relatives, rescue operation was called off officially,” said district collector Nidhi Choudhari.

Amol Kondalkar, who lost his whole family in the lanslide, said the bodies of his father and sister were not found. He said there was no option but to agree to call off the retrieval of bodies from under the debris after seeing the condition of the bodies that were recovered. He also expressed regret that the mission did not begin earlier.

It took nearly 24 hours for the rescue operation to begin at the landslide site, as NDRF and SDRF teams could access the village only by Friday afternoon due to flooding and heavy rain.

“They have already suffered, now they shouldn’t be disturbed anymore. Had the rescue operation begun earlier, people could have been retrieved alive, or at least all bodies could have been found,” Kondalkar said.

Nikhil Jadhav, who lost 14 family members, said he was horrified at the condition of the bodies retrieved. “It was humiliating for those who have died. We do not want to disrespect the dead.”

Vijay Pande, who lost all his family members, including parents, wife, a five-month-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, said it was better to allow them to rest in peace. “We have been allowed to carry out their last rites here,” he said.

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