New Delhi, August 8 (PTI): The toll in the massive landslide that flattened a row of 20 houses of tea estate workers in the high range Idukki district of Kerala climbed to 24, as efforts were underway amid continuing rains to locate those missing.
The Police, Fire service personnel and the locals have teamed with two teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and are searching for missing persons feared trapped in the debris that has been spread over in the area.
As per the records available with the district administration, 46 people are still missing.
"The death toll has gone up to 24. The search operations are still going on. However, rains have started.
"Despite that, our officials, and the NDRF are engaged in search and rescue operations," Idukki District Collector H Dineshan told PTI.
12 people were rescued on Friday and are receiving treatment, he said.
The weatherman has issued a red alert for the district on Saturday and Sunday.
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 told the media that a 55-member team is entrusted with the search and rescue mission and hopes to rescue everyone.
"Two of our teams are engaged in the search operations and there is a river nearby, the bodies are likely to be stuck in the slush. Search will be carried out on the banks of the river too," Nambiar said.
Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has revised the red alert warnings and said Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur will receive extreme heavy rainfall above 20 cms on Saturday.
The IMD has also said the alert will be there for Idukki, Malappuram and Wayanad districts on Sunday as well.
According to the State Disaster Management Authority, Kerala received an average rainfall of 95 mm in the last 24 hours while Vadakara in Kozhikode recorded 32.7 cm of rain, the heaviest in the state.
Vaythiri in Wayanad received 19.3 cm of rain while Peerumedu in Idukki district 18.5 cm.
In the four-month-long Southwest monsoon season, which began in June first week, Kerala has reported a total of 51 deaths till Thursday night due to various incidents of drowning, landslides, and tree fall.