The NDRF recovered nine more dead bodies from the debris on the third day of rescue operations at landslide-affected Irshalwadi village in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. As the death toll in the tragedy rose to 25 on Saturday, environmentalists blamed mining activities for this “manmade disaster”, with at least two organisations writing to the government to put a ban on quarries in the region.
Irshalwadi village with a population of 228 persons was swept under mud and stones, amid heavy rainfall, late at night on July 19. Till now, while 25 have died in the disaster, at least 104 residents of the village remain missing. Among the survivors, some have lost their entire family, whereas some are rendered homeless. The rescue operations at the remote village are being carried out by four teams of over 100 NDRF personnel, besides the state rescue units.
The authorities have shifted the survivors to a local school, with the government planning to set up 60 temporary structures ( containers) to house them. Meanwhile, Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, who also visited the site, has promised a relief of Rs five lakh to the survivors of the tragedy.
‘Due to bad weather, topography, rescue ops carried out manually’
The rescue teams, which are unable to employ heavy machinery at the site because of the area’s topography and weather conditions, have been manually carrying out the operations, day and night for the past three days.
“We have deployed four teams comprising around 100-120 men. Today is the third day of rescue operations and we have retrieved 25 bodies,” NDRF deputy commandant Deepak Tiwari said, adding that the affected village is located on a hill just beneath the Irshalwadi fort.
“It’s difficult to take manpower, heavy machinery and other equipment to the site. Besides, there is continuous rainfall and strong winds. Helidrop is not possible because of the bad weather and we have to walk up the hill. All these conditions mean we have to carry out our work manually. But we are doing our best.”
‘This is a man-made disaster’
Amid rising death toll at the landslide-hit Irshalwadi village, Raigad-based environmentalist Dr Sameer Butala termed the disaster “man-made”.
“This is a man-made disaster. Soil has loosed up due to continuous construction work and quarrying in the region. Hundreds of quarries are there in the hilly areas of Raigad district. This quarrying loosens the soil and so, during heavy rain it couldn’t hold the water resulting in landslide,” he said.
Echoing Butala’s views, environment organisations NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan wrote to chief minister Eknath Shinde on July 21 requesting him for an immediate ban on the quarries across the hills in Raigad and neighboring Thane.
Notably, Taliye village of Mahad tehsil in Raigad district witnessed a similar fate because of a landslide in 2021, which resulted in the death of 86 people.
Newslaundry had earlier reported on how the residents of Mahad taluka in Raigad district witness devastating floods every year because of the Kokan Railway’s construction in the region. The railway’s decision to build a bridge at Dasgaon village made Mahad vulnerable to floods, with frequent landslides also becoming a facet of the region. .
Survivors of the tragedy
At least 10 members of his family who resided at Irshalwadi village have been since missing the landslide on July 19, said Kanta Kudale, a Badlapur resident. The missing persons include three minors, three women and four men.
Meanwhile, a survivor of the tragedy, Ashok Bhutmbara has lost his mother and grandmother, while his sister and father are missing.
A 57-year-old vegetable seller, Ambi Bhavar lost all the members of her family, including her brother Shaniwarya Bhavar, sister-in-law Kamli Bhavar and and five-year-old nephew Suresh Bhavar.
News reports said, the dead bodies recovered from the debris included those of Radhi Bhavar and Dhama Bhavar, who are survived by their children Ananta Bhavar and Ganesh Bhavar – both of whom were at their residential schools at Raigad and Matheran when tragedy struck.