The death toll in the massive landslide that destroyed a row of 20 houses of tea estate workers in the high range Idukki district of Kerala rose to 43 on Sunday evening after 17 more bodies were retrieved from the debris.
"Three days after the settlements were swept away by devastating landslides at Pettimudi near Rajamala, authorities have now decided to take help of sniffer dogs to trace the persons buried under the debris," news agency PTI quoted officials as saying.
According to officials, 78 people were staying at the spot where the tragedy occurred. While 12 were rescued, 43 bodies were found. Officials said efforts were on to find the rest.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted extremely heavy rainfall in Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Alappuzha districts. Sounding a red alert, the IMD said these districts are likely to receive over 20 cms rain in the next 24 hours.
IMD officials said almost all districts north of Alappuzha are likely to receive over 20 cms rains. There is likely to be a reduction in rainfall from Tuesday, they said.
The picturesque landscape of Pettimudi was flattened into a rough patch of boulders and mud with parts of asbestos and tin sheets seen scattered around.
The incident is said to have occurred in the wee hours of Friday when a huge mound of earth fell on the "row houses" and two children and five women were among the deceased, most of whom were plantation workers from neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
NDRF chief in charge of south Indian state, Rekha Nambiar is leading the 55-member team which is entrusted with the search and rescue mission. Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a red alert for Idukki, Malappuram and Wayanaddistricts on Sunday.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami has assured support to his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan on rescue efforts. "I spoke to Hon @CMOKerala today morning about the tragic loss of lives and damages caused due to heavy rain and landslides at Munnar. I promised to provide necessary support in rescue and relief operations," Palaniswami said on his Twitter handle.
Incessant rains, landslides and opening of shutters of dams across rivers have caused rise in water level in rivers and streams in central Kerala. Normal life of people living in low lying areas of Kottayam and Alappuzha has been affected with flood waters entering their homes.
Low-lying areas in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts are heavily impacted due to flooding. Hundreds of families have been shifted to relief camps from-low lying areas including Kumarakom and Kuttanad regions of Kottayam and Alappuzha districts, they said.
A car with a man was washed away in flood waters at Manarcad area in Kottayam district in the wee hours of Sunday.The NDRF team has launched a rescue operation for the missing person identified as Justin, a native of Angamaly. He is an airport taxi driver.
Considering the spread of novel coronavirus, the authorities have opened separate camps for different categories of the flood affected people. In Ernakulam district, 1,203 flood affected people have been shifted to relief camps.
While 1,118 persons have been lodged in general relief camps, 67 senior citizens are staying in camps for persons above 60 years of age. Eighteen persons are staying in the camps set for quarantined people, district administration officials said.
(With PTI inputs)