Rescuers retrieved at least 15 bodies and struggled to free around 50 others feared trapped under debris in Kerala’s Idduki district on Friday after torrential rains triggered a massive landslide in the area, officials said.
Local authorities said the settlement of tea estate workers in Rajamalai of Idukki was hit by the landslide early on Friday.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that a team of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) has been deployed in the rescue efforts.
“An NDRF team has been deployed to rescue the landslide victims in Rajamalai, Idukki. Police, Fire Force, Forest & Revenue officials have been instructed to join the rescue efforts. Another team of NDRF, based in Thrissur, will soon reach Idukki,” Vijayan tweeted.
Here is what we know so far:
* The massive landslide hit the tea plantation workers’ settlement in Rajamalai, burying it under a mound of slush and rock.
* The settlement is about 25km away from the hill resort of Munnar, which was ravaged by the flood in 2018.
* Many of the residents were in deep sleep when the landslide hit the area and they couldn’t escape, officials said. They added that at least 84 people lived in the settlement.
* Idukki district collector H Dineshan said they were informed about the accident after one of the workers escaped and alerted forest officials at the Eravikulam national park.
* Dineshan said heavy downpour and foggy climate in the area is hampering rescue operations.
* Officials said at least 16 people were rescued and rushed to the hospital.
* E Chandrasekharan, the state revenue minister, said they have sought the help of the Indian Air Force for airlifting the injured but were told it will be difficult in inclement weather.
* Residents said the area has been witnessing heavy rains over the last three days and power and communication networks in the area were disrupted due to the downpour.
* According to reports, another landslide took place on the way to the Sabarimala hill temple in Pathanamthitta. The famous Shiva temple in Ernakulam district was almost submerged as the water level in the Periyar River rose.
* The India Metrological Department (IMD) has declared a red alert for extremely heavy rainfall in Idukki, Malappuram and Wayanad districts and orange alert in five other districts of the southern state.