Monsoon rains kill 67 in southern India

Torrential monsoon rains have disrupted air and train services in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where flooding, landslides and bridge collapses have killed at least 67 people in the past week, officials said Wednesday.

Heavy rainfall, winds forecast until Saturday as floods submerge vast areas of Kerala state

People wade through flood waters as they shift to higher grounds following heavy rains in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala state, India, on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Torrential monsoon rains have disrupted air and train services in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where flooding, landslides and bridge collapses have killed at least 67 people in the past week, officials said Wednesday.

The international airport at Kochi, a major port city, suspended flight operations until Saturday after rains flooded the runway.

Authorities asked tourists to stay away from the popular hill station of Munnar in Idukki district because of flooding. Kerala is a popular tourist destination with scenic landscapes, waterfalls and beautiful beaches.

An Indian man walks through the premises of a hospital that was flooded due to heavy rains in Kerala state. (Associated Press)

People also have been asked to avoid the Sabarimala hill shrine as the water level in the nearby rain-fed Pampa River was rising. Sabarimala, a Hindu pilgrimage centre in the mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district, attracts around 45 million devotees every year.

Krishna Kumar, a relief official, said there will be no immediate respite for thousands of people in state-run relief camps with more rain and winds forecast until Saturday.

Heavy rains forced state authorities to release excess water from dozens of reservoirs, causing floods downstream. The flooding has submerged vast areas in 12 out of 14 districts in the state.

Picnickers swept away

Elsewhere, monsoon rains caused at least 11 people in central India to be swept away by a flash flood while picnicking at a waterfall on Wednesday, according to an official.

District Magistrate Shilpi Gupta said seven others were rescued by helicopter, but 30 people remained trapped on rocks in the river in Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh state.

She said the fate of the 11 missing people was not known.

Gupta said the water level in the river rose suddenly because of monsoon rains in the area, about 460 kilometres south of New Delhi. Nightfall was hampering rescue efforts.

Hundreds of people die every year during India's monsoon flood season from June to September.