Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 September 2020

Death toll from landslide in rain-battered Kerala rises to 43

Monsoon rains hamper search for tea plantation workers buried in landslip on Friday

The death toll from a massive landslide in India's southern Kerala state rose to 43 on Sunday as search and rescue operations continued amid torrential monsoon rain.

The landslide swept away homes of workers on a tea plantation in Idukki district on Friday, hours before the state was struck by a second tragedy when a flight from Dubai crashed in the coastal city of Kozhikode.

At least 18 people including the two pilots were killed when the Air India Express flight skidded off the runway and plunged down a bank while landing in wet weather on Friday evening.

The landslide in Idukki occurred early in the morning while the workers were still sleeping.

Twenty-six bodies were recovered by Friday night, police said, with the toll rising to 43 on Sunday afternoon.

"We have stopped the rescue operation for the day because of the rain," Idukki district official H Dineshan told Reuters on Sunday.

"The operation will continue until the last body is recovered."

Local media reported that about 78 people were believed to live in the area, with many still missing.

But the Idukki district administration told the Hindustan Times that number could be higher because students who usually stay in hostels had returned home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At least six teams from the National Disaster Response Force are involved in the rescue operations in Idukki, officials said.

Photos of the site at Rajamala, about 25 kilometres from the popular hill resort of Munnar, showed teams working in a vast expanse of mud amid forested hills.

Sniffer dogs were being used to help find bodies.

The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, said police, fire services and the revenue and forest departments were taking part in the rescue and recovery operation.

He said compensation of 500,000 rupees (Dh24,500) would be paid to the families of those killed in the landslide.

The India Meteorological Department issued alerts for heavy rain in several districts of Kerala, including a red alert for Idukki.

The annual monsoon from June to September brings much-needed rain for India's farmers but also causes widespread destruction in the country and across the rest of South Asia.

This year more than 550 people have died in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, and more than 9.6 million people have been displaced by flooding since June, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Updated: August 10, 2020 10:42 AM

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