At least 35 people have died in landslides and floods triggered by heavy rains in southern India’s Kerala state, officials said on Monday, as rescuers scoured for survivors in muddy debris and the military flies in emergency supplies.
At least 22 people died in two landslides in Kottayam and Idukki districts that swept away several homes and buried others in mud and debris after heavy rains on Saturday.
The body of a seven-year-old child was pulled out of the rubble at the landslide site in Kottayam late on Sunday, and rescue workers were still searching in the rubble for the missing, local newspaper Malayalam Manorama reported.
Several incidents of drowning and people being swept away by floodwaters were reported.
Dramatic visuals on local television showed a two-storey house falling into a swollen river. Roads and bridges were destroyed in the affected areas and trees uprooted.
Several dams were reported to be full to danger levels in the riverine state which is also a popular tourist destination.
Residents were cut off in the coastal parts of the state as the rains, which started to intensify from late Friday, swelled rivers and flooded roads.
Thousands of people have been evacuated and at least 100 relief camps have been set up, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
The army, navy and airforce are assisting with flood relief and rescue operations. Officials could not say how many people were missing.
“It was my livelihood. Everything is gone,” a distraught man told Kerala news channel Manorama TV in Koottickal town in Kottayam, which was hit by a landslide.
“The hill broke off near us. There has been a lot of damage and loss. The house has gone. Children have gone,” a woman from Koottickal added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences and said authorities were working to help those who were affected or hit by the deluge.
The India Meteorological Department said the heavy rains were caused by a low-pressure area over the southeastern Arabian Sea and Kerala. The weather body warned of at least three days of very heavy rainfall from Wednesday, raising fears of further flooding.
In northern India, some states including the Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are forecast to experience “heavy to very heavy rainfall” in the next two to three days, the weather bureau said.
The northern weather system would be caused by a low-pressure area over Afghanistan and its surroundings interacting with strong winds from the Bay of Bengal, it added.
In 2018, nearly 500 people were killed in Kerala when it was ravaged by the worst floods to hit the state in almost a century.