Rescuers recover 26 dead from landslide in northeast India

GAUHATI – Cool rain and falling rocks on Saturday hampered rescuers who have so far pulled 26 bodies from the debris of a landslide that wiped out a railway construction site in northeast India, officials said.

Rescue operations are expected to continue for a few days in hilly and rugged terrain, with little hope of finding survivors among the 37 people still missing since Wednesday evening.

Pankaj Kavidayal, a relief official, said 21 of the 26 confirmed dead were members of the territorial army. Army personnel had provided security for railway officials due to a decades-old insurgency seeking a separate homeland for ethnic and tribal groups in the region.

More than 250 soldiers, rescuers and police using bulldozers and other equipment took part in the operation in Noney, a town near Imphal, the state capital of Manipur. They were warned of new landslides being reported in the area on Saturday.

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Excavators were also used to search for bodies in a river.

Thirteen soldiers and five civilians were rescued from the wreckage of the fully washed away railway station, staff living quarters and other infrastructure under construction, Kavidayal said. Continuous rainfall over the past three weeks has wreaked havoc in India’s northeast – eight states and 45 million people – and neighboring Bangladesh.

An estimated 200 people have been killed in torrential rains and mudslides in states including Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Sikkim, while 42 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 and early rains that triggered unprecedented flooding. Monsoon rains in South Asia usually start in June, but torrential rains hit northeast India and Bangladesh as early as March this year.

With rising global temperatures due to climate change, experts say the monsoon season is becoming more variable, meaning much of the rain that typically falls throughout the season comes in a shorter period. .

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