16 dead after landslip triggered by heavy rains buries village in Maharashtra’s Raigad

Death toll to rise, inclement weather, mountainous terrain hampering rescue operations

July 20, 2023 08:06 am | Updated 08:43 pm IST - Mumbai

NDRF personnel carry out rescue operations after a landslide in Irshalwadi village in Raigad district of Mahrashtra on Thursday, July 20, 2023.

NDRF personnel carry out rescue operations after a landslide in Irshalwadi village in Raigad district of Mahrashtra on Thursday, July 20, 2023. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At least 16 persons were killed and 21 injured after a landslip induced by incessant rainfall buried the hamlet of Irshalwadi in Raigad district, 65 km from Mumbai, said authorities on Thursday.

Tragedy struck the mountainous village sited in Khalapur tehsil when the rockfall buried more than half of the 48 homes between 10:30-11 p.m. on Wednesday night. A fire officer from the Navi Mumbai civic body succumbed to a heart attack while he was on en route to join rescue operations.

The death toll is expected to expected to rise significantly as out of the populace of 228, only a little over 100 have been accounted for, according to authorities.

Also Read | Raigad landslide July 20 updates | Rescue operations called off for the day; NDRF confirms 16 deaths

Poignant scenes of loss and anguish were witnessed as grief-stricken villagers bemoaned the sudden destruction of their kin, property and livestock.  

The difficult topography of the village nestled high in the Sahyadri mountains just below the Irshalgadh fort, coupled with extremely heavy and continuous rainfall since the past 72 hours, rendered rescue operations difficult and dangerous.

The lack of any proper motorable road to the village proved a vital factor in delaying rescue operations as heavy machinery like earth movers and excavators could not be carried to the disaster site.

This compelled rescue teams comprising of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel, besides hundreds of NGOs and trekkers’ outfits, to perform operations manually.

After nearly 16 hours of continual rescue operations since the wee hours of Thursday, poor visibility coupled with gusty winds, intense downpour, thick mud and the potential dangers of more mudslips forced the NDRF and other rescue teams to call a halt by 4:30 pm.

Leading from the front, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who had been monitoring rescue operations from the base camp at Chouk since early morning, personally made the arduous one-and-a-half-hour trek to the actual spot of the disaster to console the bereaved families.

“We are still trying to corroborate the actual figures as some people from the village were away when disaster struck… It is an extremely unfortunate incident. The government is firmly behind the villages in their hour of grief. We have announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh for each of the kin of the deceased while the State will bear medical expenses of all injured,” said Mr. Shinde, adding that Home Minister Amit Shah had been in constant touch with him regarding the tragedy.

He further said that 50 to 60 shipping containers had been arranged for the survivors as temporary shelters and that they were being moved to safer zones. 

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, speaking in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, said that Irshalwadi was not in the list of potentially landslide-prone places as per the Geological Survey of India (GSI) report.

Stating that there had not been any incidents of landslides in this place before, Mr. Pawar said that Khalapur taluk had received a total 499 mm rainfall between July 17 and 19, which had triggered the landslide.

Both Mr. Shinde and Mr. Ajit Pawar said that despite two helicopters having been kept ready since morning for rescue operations, they could not take-off owing to bad weather.

Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis told the Assembly around 1,000 additional workers along with machinery had been rushed to the disaster spot through the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO).

As the IMD had issued a red alert for Raigad district and the Konkan region, Mr. Fadnavis said that about 11,500 citizens from four districts of Konkan region - Thane, Palghar, Raigad and Ratnagiri - had been moved to safer zones.

Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Ambadas Danve demanded the State government conduct an immediate survey of vulnerable and landslide-prone villages while State Congress chief Nana Patole, speaking in the Assembly, demanded to know what action had been taken on the Madhav Gadgil Committee that studied ecology in the Western Ghats.

Mr. Fadnavis said the government had completed the mapping of villages with their core and buffer zones and had apprised the Centre of the same.

The Irshalwadi tragedy evoked painful memories of the 2014 Malin landslip where more than 150 persons were killed and that of Taliye village in Raigad, where more than 75 persons had died after a landslip in 2021.

Click here for more updates.

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