Incessant rain claims 24 lives in Uttarakhand; Nainital cut off from rest of state

Officials in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand said 18 people were killed in fresh landslides on Tuesday after six died in similar incidents a day earlier

CM Dhami assured that three Army helicopters will soon arrive to assist in relief and rescue operations underway in the state. Credit: Twitter/@satyaprad1

At least 24 people died and more than a dozen were missing after landslides and flash floods triggered by several days of heavy rain hit northern India, officials said Tuesday.

Forecasters have also warned of more downpours in the coming days in the southern state of Kerala where floods have already killed at least 27 people since Friday.

Officials in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand said 18 people were killed in fresh landslides on Tuesday after six died in similar incidents a day earlier.

At least 13 of them were killed in three separate incidents in Nainital town early Tuesday after a cloudburst -- an ultra-intense deluge of rain -- triggered a landslide and destroyed several structures.

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"Twenty-four people have died in the state in two days. There were six deaths in the state on Monday and so far 18 people have lost their lives on Tuesday," Ashok Kumar, Uttarakhand police chief, told AFP.

Five of the dead were from a single-family whose house was buried by a massive landslide, local civil officer Pradeep Jain told AFP.

Another landslide in the northern Almora district killed five people after huge rocks and a wall of mud demolished and engulfed their home.

The Indian Meteorological Department extended and widened its weather alert on Tuesday, predicting "heavy" to "very heavy" rainfall in the region over the next two days.

The weather office said several areas were drenched by more than 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rainfall on Monday, causing landslides and flooding.

Authorities ordered the closure of schools and banned all religious and tourist activities in the state.

Television footage and social media videos showed residents wading through knee-deep water near Nainital lake, a tourist hotspot, and the Ganges bursting its banks in Rishikesh.

More than 100 tourists were stuck inside a resort in Ramgarh after the overflowing Kosi river deluged several areas.

Landslides are a regular danger in India's Himalayan north, but experts say they are becoming more common as rains become increasingly erratic and glaciers melt.

Experts also blame construction work on hydroelectric dams and deforestation.

In February, a ferocious flash flood hurtled down a remote valley in Uttarakhand, killing around 200 people. At least 5,700 people perished there in 2013.

In the south, large parts of Kerala have been battered by floods and landslides since late last week, leaving at least 27 people dead.

Many dams in the state were nearing the danger mark and authorities were evacuating thousands to safer locations as major rivers overflowed.

India's weather office said heavy rains will again lash the state in the next two days after a brief reprieve on Tuesday.

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