Rescuers pull out 13 bodies after landslide hits north India

DHARAMSALA, India — Soldiers and rescue workers in northern India pulled out 13 bodies from two buses buried in mud from a landslide that was triggered Sunday by heavy monsoon rains. Police said more victims may still be found in the debris.

The landslide in Urla village in Himachal Pradesh state buried part of a highway, trapping two buses, two cars and a motorbike, said district official Sandeep Kadam.

With the road blocked by landslides in several places, soldiers used shovels and pickaxes to remove rocks, boulders and debris covering the buses and pull out the bodies.

Rescue efforts were also hampered by intermittent rain, said Ashok Sharma, a police officer who was at the site.

"We have pulled out 13 bodies so far. Unfortunately, we cannot say how many more are buried in the debris," Sharma said. "One of the buses is buried under nearly 15 meters (50 feet) of mud. It will take us many hours to extricate the bus."

Sharma said he did not hold out much hope of any survivors.

It was not immediately clear how many people were traveling in the buses, Kadam said.

Dozens of houses were washed away in the torrential rain that hit the Mandi region in the Himalayan foothills.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences: "Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide related accidents in (Himachal Pradesh's) Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased."

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

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.

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