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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - 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, according to local police, with the toll rising to 43 on Sunday afternoon.
"We have stopped the rescue operation for the day because of the rain... The operation will continue till the last body is recovered," Idduki district official H Dineshan told Reuters on Sunday.
Local media reported that about 78 people were believed to live in the area, with many still missing. However, the Idukki district administration told the Hindustan Times that number could be higher as may students who usually stay in hostels had returned home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At least six teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are involved in the rescue operations in Idukki, the paper quoted officials as saying.
Photos of the site at Rajamala, about 25 kilometres from the popular hill resort of Munnar, showed teams of rescuers and excavators operating in a vast expanse of mud amid forested hills. Sniffer dogs were being used to help locate bodies.
The chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, said police, fire services and the revenue and forest departments were also taking part in the rescue and recovery operation. He announced compensation of 500,000 rupees (Dh24,500) to the families of those killed in the landslide.
The India Meteorological Department issued alerts for heavy rainfall in several districts of Kerala, including a red alert for Idduki.
The annual monsoon from June to September brings much-need 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 over 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 9, 2020 08:47 PM
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