MUMBAI: At least 67 people have died in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said on Friday (Jul 23), after torrential monsoon rains caused landslides and flooded low-lying areas, cutting off hundreds of villages.
Parts of India's west coast received up to 594mm of rainfall over 24 hours, forcing authorities to evacuate people from vulnerable areas as they released water from dams that were threatening to overflow.
"Unexpected very heavy rainfall triggered landslides in many places and flooded rivers," Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who heads Maharashtra's state government, told journalists.
"Dams and rivers are overflowing. We are forced to release water from dams, and, accordingly, we are moving people residing near the river banks to safer places."
The navy and army were helping with rescue operation in coastal areas, he added.
At least 36 people were killed in Taliye, 180km southeast of the financial capital Mumbai, when a landslide flattened most of the small village, said Vijay Wadettiwar, a minister in the state government.
At least four people died in Mumbai after a building collapsed, and another 27 were killed in other parts of Maharashtra due to landslides and accidents linked to the heavy rainfall, state government officials said.
Several dozen people were also feared to have been trapped in landslides in the Satara and Raigad districts, said a state government official who asked not to be named.
Thousands of trucks were stuck on a national highway linking Mumbai with the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, with the road submerged in some places, another Maharashtra government official said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of villages and towns were without electricity and drinking water, he said.
Rivers were also overflowing in the neighbouring southern states of Karnataka and Telangana where authorities were monitoring the situation, government officials there said.
Water levels rose to 3.5m in areas of Chiplun, a city 250km from Mumbai, following 24 hours of uninterrupted rain that caused the Vashishti river to overflow, submerging roads and homes.
The Indian Navy deployed seven rescue teams equipped with rubber boats, life jackets and lifebuoys to the affected areas, along with a helicopter to airlift marooned residents. Specialist Navy divers accompanied each team.
India's meteorological department has issued red alerts for several regions in the state, indicating that heavy rainfall will continue for the next few days.
Flooding and landslides are common during India's treacherous monsoon season between June and September, while also causing poorly constructed buildings and walls to collapse.
At least 34 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered in Mumbai, capital on Maharashtra, last weekend.
Rainwater also inundated a water purification complex, disrupting supply "in most of the parts of Mumbai", a megacity of 20 million people, civic authorities said.
Last month, 12 people were killed when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum.
And last September, 39 people died when a three-storey apartment block collapsed in Bhiwandi near the financial capital.
Climate change is making India's monsoons stronger, according to a report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) published in April.
The report warned of potentially severe consequences for food, farming and the economy affecting nearly a fifth of the world's population.
"Since Indian society is overall affected by the monsoon in a very strong way, stronger variability produces problems for agriculture, but also for the organisation of public life," said Anders Levermann from PIK and Columbia University.
Last year, five of the most costly extreme weather events in the world were related to Asia's unusually rainy monsoon, according to a tally by the charity Christian Aid.
In 2013, about 6,000 people died when flash floods and landslides swept away entire villages in the Indian state of Uttarakhand as rivers swollen by monsoon rains overflowed.