By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR (Reuters) - A landslide in the Himalayan region of Kashmir buried at least 10 people while they were sleeping, police said on Monday, as unseasonal rains swept India, damaging crops and raising fears of flash floods in the mountainous north.
Hundreds of people fled their homes as Kashmir's main rivers began to swell and weather forecasters predicted further downpours in the region that was struck by devastating floods seven months ago.
A hillside collapsed onto a house in a village about 40 kms (25 miles) from the capital Srinagar, where three families were sleeping on Monday morning, according to Mushtaq Ahmad, a neighbor. Army and police used diggers and shovels to locate any survivors."It was a huge landslide, the entire house is covered in earth," Ahmad said. "The chance of finding everyone alive is unlikely."
Local police superintendent Fayaz Ahmad Lone said 10 people were buried in the house in the village of Ledhan. Locals said the number could be higher.
India is experiencing more extreme rainfall events as the global climate warms, a study of 50 years of data by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology concluded.
This year, March has been the wettest month in more than a century, wrecking millions of hectares of winter crops. The crop damage has been blamed for a spate of rural suicides in recent weeks.
In September, the Kashmir valley suffered the worst flooding in more than a century, killing more than 200 people and displacing almost a million for weeks. The misery has added to problems in a Muslim-majority state where a revolt against Indian rule has simmered for a quarter of a century. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and claimed in full by both countries.Weather officials said heavy showers would occur in isolated places in Kashmir over the next couple days although the intensity of rain is likely to diminish. The state has received surplus rainfall in two-thirds of its districts this month. On Monday, the Kashmiri government declared a flood alert and asked people living near the river Jhelum, which flowsthrough Srinagar, to leave their homes. The government has established relief camps for those forced to flee.Mujeeb Ahmad, a doctor, left with his family on Sunday evening. "Last year my family was caught in floods and we were only rescued after four days," Ahmad said. "We don’t want to take any chances."
(Writing By Andrew MacAskill. Additional reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Michael Perry)