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Landslide hits village

Torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that buried a remote village in western India Wednesday, sweeping away scores of houses and possibly trapping more than 150 people, officials said.

About 100 rescuers had reached the area, 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.

The landslide hit the village early Wednesday morning, but details on the extent of the damage only began to trickle out several hours later, he said. Poor phone signals also were hampering the rescue operation. According to early reports, at least 40 homes were swept away.

"It's surrounded by hills and the area is very remote and rural, so it's taking us time to get there," Avasthy said.

Avasthy said he was leading a team of 150 rescuers but they were having trouble communicating with the first batch of 100 responders in the area. They were assisting local police and medical teams who began clearing the debris.

"It is a small village and this happened very suddenly," local legislator Dilip Walse Patil told CNN-IBN TV network.

Local commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said more than 150 people could be trapped. However, officials did not have further information on the basis of the figure because of the difficulties with communications and attempts to reach the area.

Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September.

The Pune district about is 151 kilometres (94 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital. The nearest medical centre is about 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the village.

The area is at the foothill of the Sahyadri Mountains, which have been deforested extensively, increasing its vulnerability to landslides.

Similar deforestation and environmental damage have caused floods and landslides in other parts of India, too.

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.

The Canadian Press

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