NEW DELHI (Xinhua) -The death toll due to heavy rains in the southern Indian state of Kerala rose to 18 on Sunday, local media reports said.
The heavy rains hit the state on Saturday, triggering landslides and flooding.
"Rainfall in Kerala continued to disrupt normal life in the southern state on Sunday, with as many as 18 people losing their lives in rain-related incidents so far, and dozens of others missing after flash floods and landslides in multiple regions," local newspaper Hindustan Times reported.
Indian army, air force, and navy have joined the local government agencies in rescue efforts. The disaster management officials have pressed sniffer dogs into service.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said all government agencies have been directed to take necessary steps to rescue people from the affected regions and evacuate those living in areas prone to landslides and floods.
"Relief camps have been started in the affected areas. People should take care inside the camps and observe COVID-19 behavior by maintaining necessary physical distancing and wear masks," a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office said. "People are not supposed to gather in camps and collectors have also been instructed to increase the number of camps if more people have to be accommodated."
Officials said the majority of the deaths were due to landslides.
"The maximum amount of damage due to rainfall has been reported from the Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, and the Idukki districts," an official said.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) Sunday said only light to moderate rainfall is likely to take place during the next 24 hours.
Officials attributed the heavy rains in the state to a low pressure that was formed in the Arabian Sea.