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Rescuers in remote Indian village dig through mud after massive landslide; at least 24 dead

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Villagers console each other as they watch a rescue operation at the site of a landslide in Malin village, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that buried a remote village in western India on Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people as it swept away scores of houses and possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said. (AP Photo)

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Villagers console each other as they watch a rescue operation at the site of a landslide in Malin village, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that buried a remote village in western India on Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people as it swept away scores of houses and possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said. (AP Photo)

MALIN, India - Rescue workers and desperate villagers dug through deep mud, rocks and the debris of shattered homes Thursday after a massive landslide buried a remote village in western India, killing at least 24 people and trapping more than 150, authorities said.

Two days of torrential rains triggered the landslide early Wednesday, but national rescue personnel could not reach the stricken area in Pune district of Maharashtra state for several hours because of bad roads and debris. Rain was still hampering the effort by Thursday morning.

"Everything on the mountain came down," said Suresh Jadhav, a district official.

Alok Avasthy, a National Disaster Response Force commander, said 23 bodies had been recovered. Large crowds of people from nearby villages reached the spot and helped rescuers in moving fallen trees and rocks with their bare hands, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

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.

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 workers were in the area assisting local police and medical teams who began clearing the debris. At least 100 ambulances were also sent, 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 earlier that more than 150 people could be trapped.

Overnight, emergency workers using flood lights mounted on jeeps saved seven injured people, Vitthal Banot, a disaster management official, said Thursday. They were taken to a nearby hospital, but their injuries were not life threatening.

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

Pune district is about 150 kilometres (95 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital. The nearest medical centre is about 15 kilometres (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.

On Thursday, heavy rains hit a remote mountainous village in northern India and six members of a family were feared dead, said police officer Pravin Tamta.

Police have recovered two bodies and were searching for four others in Tehri district in the hilly Uttarakhand state, Tamta said. The village is 300 kilometres (200 miles) north of New Delhi.

Last year, more than 6,000 people were killed as floods and landslides swept through Uttarakhand state during the monsoon season.

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