By Euan Rocha and Rajendra Jadhav
BENGALURU/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Torrential monsoon rains in the southern Indian state of Kerala caused a major landslide and flooding that has cut off some areas, forcing the evacuation of more than 22,000 people, authorities said on Friday.
Flooding also forced authorities to halt all operations from the Cochin International Airport, the busiest airport in Kerala. The airport, located along the banks of the Periyar river, would be shut until at least 1500 IST (0930 GMT) on Sunday, officials said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Twitter the landslide in the hilly district of Munnar was major. He said authorities were exploring all possible rescue methods.
“All arrangements have been put in place to deal with the disaster,” Vijayan said.
Indian media reported that at least two people were killed in the landslide, at least 70 houses were destroyed and that dozens more were still feared trapped. There were also reports that at least 20 people were killed due to the rains in Kerala in the past two days.
Kerala was hit by devastating floods last August that killed more than 200 people and affected more than 5 million. Those floods, dubbed the worst to hit the state in nearly a century, caused billions of dollars of damage to fields, homes and other infrastructure.
Seasonal monsoon rains from June to September cause deaths and mass displacement across South Asia every year but they also deliver more than 70% of India’s rainfall and are crucial for farm output and economic growth.
Heavy rains have also caused flooding and devastation in the western states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka this week.
According to officials, at least 35 people were killed in the three states this week due to the rains and more than 200,000 have been evacuated.
Hundreds of villages and a few towns in the affected areas of Maharashtra do not have electricity and drinking water, a state government official said on Friday, and authorities are trying to restore electricity in some areas.
Fuel was also scarce because some districts had been cut off from the rest of the state, the official said.
Schools and colleges in many parts of western and southern India have been shut since Monday and are unlikely to open this week, authorities have said.
Milk and vegetable supplies to India’s financial hub, Mumbai, dropped significantly on Friday because many of the affected districts in Maharashtra that have been cut off are major suppliers.
(Reporting by Euan Rocha in BENGALURU and Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; Additional reporting by Gopakumar Warrier; Editing by Paul Tait)