Seventeen people were killed and over 50 feared trapped after a massive landslide in Munnar’s Rajamalai in Kerala on Thursday night.
The disaster took place at the Pettimudi Division of Kannan Devan’s tea estate at Neymakkadu, Onmanorama reported. The dwelling submerged beneath the debris were of plantation workers, most of whom from neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the Press Trust of India said.
Twelve people were rescued on Friday and efforts were underway amid continuing rains to locate at least 52 others missing in the first major rain-related mishap in the state.
The tragedy came to light after a forest watchman informed authorities about the landslide, PTI said. Communication lines in the area have been down for the past three days.
Mathrubhumi reported that Periyavaram bridge, which connects to the area, was destroyed during the 2018 floods and work on a new bridge had not been completed.
PTI’s report said cooking utensils buried in mud, asbestos and tin sheets strewn around were all there to be seen at the area, which was the habitation of around 80 odd workers. Big boulders were also scattered around the site.
“At least 200-300 people live there. There are many lanes and a canteen at the location. Since one of the bridges to that area was destroyed last night, it has become difficult to access the region,” Munnar MLA S Rajendran told the media.
“The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed for the rescue operations in Idukki. The team was already stationed at the district. Another NDRF team is also being moved to Idukki,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
Several parts of Kerala, particularly the northern districts, have received heavy rains since Tuesday.
The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority said on Friday that a red alert was issued to Idukki, Wayanad, Thrissur and Palakkad for Saturday, while eight other district have been put on orange alert.
A red alert is sounded for rainfall of over 20 cm while an orange alert is for 6 cm to 20 cm of rain.
IMD also forecast extreme heavy rains in Idukki, Wayanad and Kottayam districts in the next two days, raising fears of more landslides in the Western Ghats region.
Mathrubhumi had on Thursday also reported landslides in Kannur’s Mattara forest and Manikkadavu.
Authorities in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts have sounded alerts with excess water being released from dams built across the rivers in these districts.
The rains in hilly areas have caused a sudden rise in the water level in rivers Periyar and Muvattupuzha flowing through Ernakulam district, which was among the badly hit during the 2018 deluge.
Taking precautionary measures to deal with flood situation, the Ernakulam district administration has opened camps in Aluva and Muvattupuzha.
Rise in water levels in the rivers flowing through Thrissur, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts have also been reported due to continuing rains.
On Thursday, extensive damages have been reported from Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod districts following heavy rain and strong winds.
Mathrubhumi reported on Thursday that relief camps had been opened in Malappuram’s Nilambur after the area witnessed a landslide.
The Malappuram district administration opened nine camps in the district of which seven are in Nilambur alone.
“We have opened nine camps in Malappuram with seven of them in Nilambur itself. A total of 410 people are in the seven camps with adherence to COVID-19 protocol,” a district disaster management authority told PTI.
Nilambur town was flooded for a few hours earlier in the day but the water subsided, police said, adding that those from the low-lying areas were shifted to the camps. At least 425 people are in various camps in Malappuram.
In Wayanad, district administration opened 12 camps and shifted at least 560 people. “People from containment zones are kept separately,” Wayanad district Collector Dr Adeela Abdulla told the media.
(With PTI inputs)