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Kerala floods: At least 26 killed as rescuers step up efforts

At least 26 people have been killed in floods in southern India after heavy rains caused rivers to overflow, cutting off towns and villages.

Five children are among the dead. There are fears the death toll could rise further as many people are missing.

Several houses were washed away and people became trapped in the district of Kottayam in Kerala state.

Video from the area showed bus passengers being rescued after their vehicle was inundated with floodwater.

Kottayam and Idukki are two of the worst affected districts in the state. Days of heavy rainfall has also caused deadly landslides. Swollen rivers have washed away bridges connecting many small villages.

Military helicopters are being used to fly in supplies and personnel to areas where people are trapped, officials said.

Thousands of people have been evacuated and 184 relief camps have been set up across the state, where over 8,000 people are being provided food, bedding and clothing.

The government has also announced financial aid for those who have lost houses and crops.

It has decided to leave the decision of whether various dams in the state should be opened to an expert committee.

In 2018, some 400 people died when heavy rains flooded the state. There was controversy over the fact that dams were opened without any warning to people living in low-lying areas.

Kerala’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the committee will decide which dams need to be opened.

“District collectors will be notified hours before opening the dams so that local people have enough time to evacuate,” his office said in a statement.

Meanwhile, India’s meteorological department has predicted heavy, isolated rainfall in the state for up to four more days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that he had spoken to Mr Vijayan about the situation.

“It is sad that many people have died due to the heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. My condolences to the bereaved families,” Mr Modi wrote.

Officials from Alleppey city told BBC Hindi that the situation in the city was worrying. Alleppey has a network of canals and lagoons and it is vulnerable to flooding.

Meanwhile, several tragic stories are coming out from the affected districts.

A family of six – including a 75-year-old grandmother and three children – were confirmed dead after their home in Kottayam was swept away, news agency PTI reported.