Five tea estate workers have succumbed to death as heavy rain caused a landslide in Kerala’s Idukki district early Friday morning.
News agency PTI has confirmed that five bodies have been recovered. Five others who were injured have been rushed to the Tata General Hospital.
The landslide happened in the Rajamalai area of the district, which is around 25 km from the tourist town of Munnar.
At least 70 more people are suspected to be trapped under the soil, burying as many as 20 houses of plantation workers. Between 70 and 80 people lived in the area, officials have said, adding that they do not know, at this point, how many are trapped under the mud.
Officials said that due to the landslide the temporary connecting bridge was swept away making it difficult to access the area. Rescue teams have been slowed down by tough terrain. The entire district was on red alert for likely extremely heavy rainfall today.
Health Minister KK Shailaja has said that a special medical team and 15 ambulances have been sent to Idukki, with more ready to be sent if needed. The Health Minister has also regulated more hospitals to be ready to treat survivors.
Mobile phone connectivity in the remote locality was patchy. The downpour continued to be intense. The police have set up mobile wireless repeater stations to expand the communication network.
Forest officials and other emergency services personnel have reached the spot. The Chief Minister’s Office has sought assistance from IAF helicopters for help with rescue efforts.
“A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team has been deployed to rescue landslide victims in Rajamalai, Idukki. Police, Fire Force, Forest & Revenue officials have been instructed to join rescue efforts. Another team of NDRF, based in Thrissur, was also directed to move to Idukki,” the Chief Minister said in a Facebook post.
Initial reports from local revenue officials, at around 11.30 AM, suggest that five people have died. Ten others have been rescued so far.
“So far, 10 people have been rescued. The landslide occurred at a place where tea plantation workers reside. We don’t know the exact numbers yet, but at least three families are stranded there,” Idukki SP said.
The district also saw floods in low-lying areas like Munnar, which is a popular tourist destination near Rajamalai, because of rising water levels of a nearby river.
Travelling at night has been banned in Idukki district and several roads and highways had been closed due to rains, the state disaster management authority was quoted by news agency PTI.
The Indian Meteorological Department had put Idukki under red alert after weathermen forecast that heavy rains would strike the district for the next two days.