A naval helicopter shows the scene after a landslide triggered by heavy rain in Kottayam district, Kerala.
Ashraf Padanna, Correspondent
At least 35 people have died in landslides and floods triggered by heavy rains in southwestern India, officials said Sunday, as rescuers scoured for survivors in muddy debris and the military flew in emergency supplies.
Residents were cut off in parts of the coastal state of Kerala as the rains, which started to intensify from late Friday, swelled rivers and flooded roads.
Some 11 bodies have been found so far in Idukki district and another 14 in Kottayam district after landslides and flash floods hit the areas, officials told the media.
Several houses were washed away and people became trapped in Kottayam. Reporters said people are living under fear following the forecast of intense rains on Wednesday.
Video from Kottayam showed bus passengers being rescued after their vehicle was inundated with floodwater.
The Indian military joined rescue efforts while Prime Minister Narendra Modi rang up chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and reviewed the flood situation.
Helicopters have been used to fly supplies to parts of the Kottayam district, where people got trapped under debris by the landslides.
Several roads have been swept away and trees uprooted. Fishing boats are evacuating residents trapped in villages and towns.
Rescue workers said many people are missing and the death toll could rise further. They are removing mud, rocks and fallen trees.
The district authorities have opened temporary shelters for displaced people as the waters touched the roof of many homes.
The current spell of heavy rains is attributed to cloudbursts. It leads to flooding and landslides in Kerala.
Experts say Kerala is under constant threat of flooding as wetlands and lakes that once acted as natural safeguards have disappeared in rapid urbanisation and construction.
The state witnessed the deluge of almost a century in 2018, in which some 400 people died and more than one million others were displaced.
Kerala, with 43 rivers originating from the Western Ghats and draining into the Arabian Sea, is among the ten Indian states most vulnerable to flooding.
Though the state announced big plans for restoring "rooms for the river” and initiated an ambitious project, Rebuild Kerala, after the back-to-back floods, they failed.
"It is saddening that some people have lost their lives due to heavy rains and landslides in Kerala,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted.
"Authorities are working on the ground to assist the injured and affected. I pray for everyone's safety and well-being.”
There was continuous and heavy rain overnight. Its intensity got reduced in the morning.
The disaster management control centre here said there are 156 relief camps sheltering 4,713 people from 1,253 displaced families.
These camps are spread across the states. Many families forced to leave have moved into the homes of their relatives.
So far this year, 97 people have died from rain-related incidents and 57 of them were drowning.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said NDRF teams had been deployed in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts.
"Directions have been issued to deploy five additional teams to Idukki, Kottayam, Kollam, Kannur and Palakkad districts,” he said.
The state government has postponed the higher secondary school final exams scheduled to begin Monday.
"The rescue operations are almost complete and 11 bodies have been recovered from here,” the state’s revenue minister, K Rajan, said in Kuttikal, Kottayam.
"In Kokkayar of Idukki district, rescue and recovery operations are underway. We have announced an immediate relief of Rs 400,000 to all bereaved families.”
When floods hit southern India, it looked as though a young couple would be unable to make their wedding. But they managed to reach the temple by floating through the flooded streets in a giant metal cooking pot.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has expressed his gratitude to the rulers of the UAE for their support and solidarity during last year’s devastating floods.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday wound up a four-day visit to his flood-ravaged Wayanad constituency and invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and see the devastation.
On November 23, researchers discovered a new "abnormally multiple mutations. Some of the mutations are already known and affect transmissibility and immune evasion, but many more are new.
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