GAUHATI, India (AP) — Rescuers found two more bodies as they resumed cleanup operations after an overnight stop searching for nearly 70 people missing after a landslide triggered by weeks of heavy downpours killed at least 16 people. at a railway construction site in northeast India. officials said Friday.
More than 200 disaster response workers and police officers are using land-clearing equipment such as bulldozers to rescue people buried under rubble in Noney, a town near Imphal, the capital of Manipur state. But the terrain makes it difficult to move heavy equipment, district judge H. Guite said, adding that he has called for backup.
Intermittent rain continues in the region.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered so far after a mound collapsed and buried the area of the rail project, Guite told The Associated Press.
A flowing river has been blocked by debris creating a dam-like structure in the area, he said. People living nearby have been asked to move to safe areas, according to media reports.
Seven of the confirmed dead were members of the Territorial Army, state chief minister N. Biren Singh said. He said five Indian Railway officials were among those feared missing.
Because there is a rebel insurgency in the area, army personnel were there providing security for the railway officials. The state’s decades-old insurgency seeks a separate homeland for ethnic and tribal groups.
Most of the victims were asleep when the mudslide hit the area early Thursday. Some survivors recalled being swept away by debris from the hill, The Times of India newspaper quoted Daichuipao, a resident, as saying.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he has reviewed the situation with local authorities. “Secured all possible support from the Center (federal government),” he tweeted.
Continuous rains in the last three weeks it has wreaked havoc in northeast India, which has eight states and 45 million people, and in neighboring Bangladesh.
An estimated 200 people have been killed in heavy downpours and landslides in states including Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Sikkim, while 42 people have died in Bangladesh since May 17. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.
Scientists say climate change is a factor behind the erratic early rains that triggered the unprecedented flooding. Monsoon rains in South Asia usually start in June, but torrential rains hit northeastern India and Bangladesh as early as March this year.
With global temperatures rising due to climate change, experts say the monsoon season is becoming more variable, meaning much of the rain that would normally fall during the season comes in a shorter period.
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