Indian landslide leaves 42 dead

More bodies have been recovered after a mudslide at a tea plantation in southern India.
More bodies have been recovered after a mudslide at a tea plantation in southern India.

The death toll from a landslide in India's southern Kerala state has risen to 42 with more bodies recovered from the mud and debris that buried the living quarters of tea plantation workers.

Ongoing monsoon rains triggered the landslide on Friday in the Pettamudi hills in Kerala's Idukki region and a river of mud and debris flattened the workers' living quarters at a time when most were sleeping.

"Twelve people were rescued on Friday and till now 42 bodies have been found," said Antony Scaria, a senior administrative official. He said 24 people were still missing.

Teams of rescue and relief workers from the National Disaster Response Force, the fire department, police and local agencies were continuing search operations.

Sniffer dogs were being used to trace people buried in the debris.

Reaching the area was difficult as the entire region had been flooded, damaging roads, and a key bridge had been washed away, Scaria said.

The Indian Meteorological Department forecast heavy rains and sounded a red alert on Sunday for Idukki along with Wayanad and Mallapuram, two other Kerala districts.

Landslides and floods are common during India's monsoon season. The rains are vital for agriculture but often cause immense destruction of property and crops, and lead to the loss of lives.

Across the country, at least 780 people died in incidents related to monsoons between the end of May and last Thursday, the Home Ministry said.

They included drowning, landslides, collapsing buildings, electrocution, falling trees and lightening.

Australian Associated Press