As many as 22 people have been killed and several others missing in floods and landslides, triggered by heavy rains, in the southern Indian state of Kerala in the past 24 hours, officials said Thursday.
The deaths were reported from the districts of Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Ernakulam.
"With two more latest deaths reported from Ernakulam district, the toll has now risen to 22. Earlier 11 people died in Idukki, while six lost their lives in Malappuram, two in Kozhikode and one in Wayanad," a disaster management official said.
"Several low-lying areas have been flooded. Also a number of people are missing in Palakkad, Wayanad and Kozhikode districts. Several teams of National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) have been deployed in the state," he added.
Aviation officials said that such was the impact of heavy rains that flights operations had to be stopped for some time at the state's Cochin International Airport that is close to the Periyar river due to fears of flooding because of opening of Idukki dam shutters.
"But all flights have now resumed, considering an improvement in the situation," an airport spokesperson said.
Local TV channels reported that schools and colleges have been closed in large parts of the state and the annual Nehru boat race in Alappuzha district has been postponed because of the heavy showers lashing Kerala.
State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan attributed the floods to the opening of many dams across Kerala because of rise in water levels in major reservoirs.
"The situation in the state is really serious. We are forced to open 22 dams in the state due to incessant rains. Such a situation never arose in the recent past. This is really unprecedented," the Chief Minister told the media in state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Among the 22 dams opened, was Cheruthoni dam that is one of the largest arch dams in Asia. This was the first time the dam was opened since 1992.
Apart from NDRF deployment, the state government has sought the help of Indian military.
"Help has been sought from Army, Navy, NDRF. Three NDRF teams are in Alappuzha, Wayanad and Kozhikode. Two more teams have been moved. An additional six teams have been asked to be sent to Kerala. Help from Navy has been sought to evacuate people cut off in Wayanad," Vijayan said.
Weather officials have predicted more rains in the next 24 hours. "More showers are likely to hit the state in the next 24 hours. Fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea," a weather official said.
More than 40 people died in the state in rain-related incidents in Kerala last month.