India landslide: Dozens feared dead after flooding in Kerala

India landslideImage source, Georgey Mathews
Image caption,
Houses were buried under debris

At least 22 people have been killed after monsoon-season floods triggered a landslide in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Houses in Idukki district were swept away after torrential rain and flooding late on Friday night.

Rescuers have been recovering bodies from under debris but 44 people remain missing, Idduki MP Dean Kuriakose told the BBC.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued a red alert for Idukki on Friday, forecasting extremely heavy rainfall of more than 20cm (8in).

The landslide happened at a settlement for tea workers in the Rajamalai area, around 25km (15 miles) from the tourist town of Munnar.

Local reports say as many as 20 houses of tea-plantation workers and their families were buried under the debris.

Image source, Georgey Mathews

Rescue efforts are ongoing, but operations have been hampered by heavy downpours, foggy conditions and the fear of more landslides.

Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala, said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was assisting rescue workers who were struggling to find bodies.

The site had been completely cut off after a bridge to the area collapsed amid the flooding.

But the bridge has now been restored, allowing more rescue workers, including local police and firefighters, to attend the scene.

"Only one of the four layams (line houses) was searched and [we] recovered 17 bodies yesterday. Searches under the debris of other rows started today," Mr Kuriakose, the lawmaker for the area, told the BBC on Saturday.

"The death toll has gone up to 22 now, and 44 are missing. We have now received two heavy earthmovers and rock breakers, and rains have subsided."

Image source, Georgey Mathew

The tragedy occurred on the first anniversary of the landslides in Malappuram and Wayanad districts that claimed more than 50 lives during the 2019 floods.

Kerala also witnessed severe floods in August 2018, during which thousands of homes were swept away and more than 400 people were killed.

More heavy rainfall is expected in southern and eastern India this weekend. The IMD said a low pressure system was brewing over the Bay of Bengal, as the monsoon season reaches its peak.

The season lasts from June to September and wreaks havoc across South Asia every year.

Several parts of another southern Indian state, Karnataka, have also been affected by heavy rainfall and landslides.

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Media caption,
BBC Weather's Chris Fawkes looks at why monsoon rains develop and some of the factors which can affect the forecast.