At least 136 people have died and more than 90,000 have been evacuated in the Indian state of Maharashtra after monsoon rains buffeted the area this week, resulting in devastating landslides and flooding, authorities told CNN on Saturday.
Experts say that Maharashtra, one of the most populous states in the nation, hasn’t seen such a torrential downpour during the month of July in at least four decades, Reuters reports. As of Saturday, major rivers were still in danger of rising past their banks, while hundreds of villages remain cut off by floodwaters and debris.
At least 42 people were killed after landslides flattened most of Taliye, a small village about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Mumbai, on Thursday, a senior Maharashtra government official told Reuters. Dozens of villagers remain unaccounted for as rescue teams with the National Disaster Response Force, the Indian military, and state authorities struggle to trudge through thick sludge amid relentless rain.
“About 40 people are still trapped,” said the official, who spoke with the outlet on the condition of anonymity. “The possibility of rescuing them alive is thin as they’ve been trapped in mud for more than 36 hours.”
A representative from Maharashtra’s Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation department told CNN that 27 deaths have been reported from the Satara district in the last 48 hours. Rescuers continue to search for victims of nine other landslides across the state. Major damages have also been reported in all three of the nation’s coastal districts, the representative added.
Some regions of India’s west coast have received as much as 23 inches (59.4 centimeters) of rainfall, Reuters reports. Mahabaleshwar, a hill station south of Mumbai, set a record for its highest rainfall ever recorded: 23.6 inches (60 centimeters) in 24 hours.
On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was in anguish over the loss of lives and expressed his condolences to bereaved families in Maharashtra.
“The situation in Maharashtra due to heavy rains is being closely monitored and assistance is being provided to the affected,” he said on Twitter.
Seasonal monsoon rains hit the region every year between June and September, but climate scientists warn that rising temperatures as a result of climate change could be exacerbating their impact. A warmer atmosphere can retain more moisture, leading to heavier rainfall during storms and, by extension, an increased risk of landslides and flooding.
“The rain fury that lashed Mahabaleshwar … is a strong warning against any more tampering with the ecologically fragile Western Ghats,” Indian analyst Devinder Sharma wrote on Twitter on Friday, referring to the range of mountains that run along India’s western coast.