The toll from the landslide in Kerala’s Idukki district rose to 52 on Tuesday, after three more bodies were recovered from the debris, Onmanorama reported. The bodies were retrieved from the Pettimudi stream that runs near the settlement.

The landslide happened at the Nayamakkad tea estate in Idukki on Friday. Four layams, or workers quarters of the tea garden, were buried under debris after a hill caved in due to heavy rain. Only 12 of the total 82 residents managed to escape.

The estate is located about 30 km from Munnar, adjacent to the Eravikulam National Park, and can be accessed only through the national park. But since the park is closed and a bridge at Periyavarai connecting the areas was washed away, there is no direct access.

Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force, the fire department and the police have expanded their search operations to the downstream of a river in their efforts to trace 19 more people who were still missing, PTI reported. Search operations are also underway to rescue those who are feared to be trapped in the debris of the mudslide. However, according to The News Minute, 21 people including 16 children are still missing.

A 50-member team comprising fire and rescue officials, a team of the National Disaster Response Force and medical teams from Ernakulam and Kottayam, are leading the rescue operations. But they are facing difficulties since the rain and flooding have made the area inaccessible.

“The boulders are so big that we had to blast them to even be able to proceed with the search operations,” NDRF Commandant Rekha Nambiar told NDTV. “The pile-up is around 20 feet high. To excavate that itself is going to take a few days at least. We are prepared for natural disasters during monsoon period, but this is massive.”

Munnar Sub-Collector S Prem Krishnan said the landslides in Munnar were triggered by very heavy rainfall over a short period of time. “Munnar has been experiencing heavy rainfall for a month, but last week was very intense,” he said. “Rainfall that would usually be spread over a month in August was concentrated in just one week.”

Meanwhile, the water level at Mullaperiyar reservoir in Idukki district reached 136.85 feet on Tuesday. The Kerala government had on Saturday asked the Tamil Nadu government to release water from Mullaperiyar to Vaigai Dam in a phased manner. This came after the water level of the reservoir had touched the 136-feet mark. The district collector of Idukki had also held discussions with his counterpart in Theni, Tamil Nadu, about the release of water through a tunnel to the dam.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held a virtual meeting with chief ministers of six states – Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala – to review the flood situation there. He directed officials of concerned ministries and organisations to take action on the suggestions given by the states, and assured that the Centre will continue to provide its support in dealing with various disasters.