Torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that buried a remote village in western India on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people as it swept away scores of houses and possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said.
National rescue personnel worked through the night using floodlights mounted on jeeps and earthmoving vehicles and rescued seven injured people, Vitthal Banot, a disaster management official, said Thursday. Their injuries are not life threatening.
But continuing rains and bad roads were hampering rescue efforts and preventing reinforcements from reaching Ambegaon, a village in Pune district in Maharashtra state, said Alok Avasthy, a National Disaster Response Force commander.
Banot said 18 bodies had been recovered from under mud, rocks, trees and other debris.
"Everything on the mountain came down," said Suresh Jadhav, a district official.
But with 70 homes buried and reports of another 158 hit by the landslide, rescuers anticipated more dead in the village, home to 704 people in the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains.
The landslide hit Wednesday morning, but details of the damage only began to trickle out several hours later. The area received 4.25 inches of rain Tuesday, with a heavy downpour continuing through Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the loss of lives and said all possible efforts must be made to help the victims, according to a statement from his office. He sent Home Minister Rajnath Singh to the disaster area.
About 250 disaster response personnel were in the area assisting local police and medical teams who began clearing the debris. At least 100 ambulances were also sent to the area, Jadhav said.
"It is a small village and this happened very suddenly," local legislator Dilip Walse Patil told CNN-IBN TV network. One local commissioner, Prabhakar Deshmukh, said more than 150 people could be trapped.
Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September.
Pune district is about 95 miles southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital. The nearest medical center is about 9 miles from the village.
The area around the village has been deforested extensively, increasing its vulnerability to landslides.
Similar deforestation and environmental damage have caused floods and landslides in other parts of India. Last year, more than 6,000 people were killed as floods and landslides swept through the hilly northern state of Uttarakhand during the monsoon season.