Maharashtra landslide toll 31, Rajnath assures all possible help

The death toll in Maharashtra’s Malin village, which was almost entirely wiped out by a landslide, rose to 31 Thursday. Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited the disaster-struck area and assured full central assistance to the state to deal with the tragedy.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also assured all possible help to the state in dealing with this enormous natural calamity,” Rajnath Singh told media persons after visiting the site and meeting the survivors undergoing treatment in nearby hospitals.

He announced a financial assistance of Rs.2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to the relatives of each of the victims in Wednesday’s tragedy.

Accompanied by Vinod Tawde, Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra legislative council, and other officials, Rajnath Singh went around the remnants of Malin village which was entirely buried when a portion of a hillock crashed on it Wednesday morning, catching its over 160 inhabitants unawares.

Rajnath Singh urged the need to strike a balance between environment and development to prevent similar disasters in future.

Asked whether deforestation and soil erosion could have caused the tragedy, the minister said: “Eco-friendly development is necessary which must ensure that natural balance is not tilted in the process.”

To address environmental concerns related to development, he said that provisions for securing environmental and forest department clearances from both state and central governments already exist.

However, he cautioned that it would be too early to discuss the causes behind the landslide until a proper inquiry is conducted by the Geological Survey of India.

The minister patted the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other agencies engaged in rescue work braving natural forces like intermittent heavy rain, loose earth and muck, debris and pieces of domestic items which were being extricated from the village, believed to be buried at least 10 feet.

On the second day Thursday, the death toll rose to 31 (till 6 p.m.). Twenty-two people were rescued alive from the debris.

Among those dug out alive Thursday were a three-month-old toddler Rudra and his mother Pramila Lembhe, who were re-united with Rudra’s grandmother, who was rescued Wednesday.

Several excavators, dumpers, trucks and other machinery continued working overnight, as rescuers gave out with cries of happiness each time a person was noticed amidst the debris.

A scooter, a motorcycle, gas cylinders, household utensils, mud-soiled clothes and other articles also kept coming out of the 44 homes that were buried.

In Mumbai, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the survivors would have to be relocated and rehabilitated.

“In the Sahyadri range, there are many such villages below mountains and hills which regularly suffer minor landslides due to deforestation, construction activities on the hills and flattening land for agriculture besides other activities.

“The Malin tragedy may have occurred due to such reasons and now we have to beware, and if required, make suitable laws,” a grim Chavan said.

In a related development, Mumbai’s famous Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir Nyas Trust announced Rs.50 lakh as aid towards the relief and rehabilitation for the victims of Malin, said its executive officer Mangesh Shinde.

Vinod Tawde said he felt “shattered” after visiting Malin.

“Is it destiny or a man-made disaster, I wonder,” he later tweeted.