1 August 2014
Malin landslide in Pune
The Indian media has a large number of interesting stories about the Malin landslide in Pune two days ago. The rescue operations continue, in a much more organised way now. IBN reports that the death toll has reached 56 people, with nine people injured. The estimated number of people missing is in the order of 120, although hopefully this will reduce with time as the whereabouts of people not affected by the landslide becomes clear. The challenges posed by the rescue operation are clear from this image from the site:
There is not inconsiderable risks to the rescue teams working in such conditions. There are however some pleasing stories about rescues, not least the recovery of a family of four from beneath the debris after a crying baby attracted the attention of rescue teams. The family survived in a house that was buried by the landslide. To survive such an event is very fortunate and generally requires a structure to provide protection.
However, inevitably the main thrust of the news reporting is less positive. The Times of India has a terrible story about the level of loss suffered by some residents of the village. 40-year-old Hirabai Chandrakant Kengale lost all 25 members of her family, consisting of her three brothers and their families. Hirabai lives in an adjacent village but had returned to help with rice planting. She was staying in a house that was not destroyed by the landslide. The same report also notes that between 25 and 30 students of various ages were sheltering in the temple at the time of the landslide. Unfortunately the likelihood of further survivors being recovered from the debris is now very low.
Interestingly the same report considers the causes of death of the victims, noting that the autopsies indicate that asphyxia was the main cause of death, with head injuries and blunt trauma being other factors.
Inevitably there is a great deal of soul searching and speculation about the causes of the landslide. In particular there is a strong emphasis on the role of deforestation, hill-cutting and other human activities. The Business Standard quotes a Communist Party of India statement that:
“The government had adequate warning in the past few years when smaller landslips had occurred and the flow of the backwaters of the nearby Dimbha dam was one of the causes. But the government did not take any preventive measures…JCB machines (excavators) were being used on the hillside in the name of developing adivasi land but (they were being used) in fact to serve the interests of a network of JCP machine owners, corrupt officers and leaders…The use of these heavy machines caused damage to the hillside. In spite of the strong opposition of adivasis to the use of machines, the government did not prohibit their use”
Pune Mirror reports that the landslide will be investigated by a team from the Geology Department at the University of Pune. Hopefully this will provide clarity about the causes of the Marin landslide.