Landslides buried at least 15 people in Indian Kashmir on Monday as hundreds fled their homes after heavy rain triggered flooding around the mountainous region.
Police and witnesses said landslides had buried at least four houses in Chadoora, the worst hit area of the Himalayan region where hundreds were killed in devastating floods last September.
“The ground above the houses just collapsed early this morning and buried them,” villager Mohammad Sultan told AFP by telephone from Chadoora, around 15 kilometres west of the main city of Srinagar.
“All of them just suddenly got buried alive. Now they are nowhere to be found,” he said.
Regional police chief Javid Mujtaba Gillani said 15 villagers had been in the houses when they were buried and a rescue effort was under way.
But an AFP reporter at the scene said earth-moving machines had been unable to get close because roads had been swept away, leaving police and soldiers armed only with shovels to search for the victims.
One local police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said there was “no hope of finding anyone alive” given the scale of the landslide.
Gillani said 237 families had been evacuated, most of them from Chadoora, after the government issued a flood alert early Monday when the river Jhelum swelled to dangerously high levels.
With more rain forecast for the next few days, authorities set up relief camps in Srinagar and issued an alert asking people living near the river Jhelum to move to safer areas.
Many residents said they did not trust the authorities after devastating floods last September that killed around 300 people, left thousands more homeless and destroyed property and infrastructure worth an estimated $16 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2015.