Monsoon Rains Kill 44 in India

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Torrential monsoon rains have disrupted air and train services in the southern Indian state of Kerala where flooding, landslides, house and road bridge collapses have killed more than 40 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.

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 center in mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district, attracts around 45 million devotees every year.

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

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

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Kerala state officials have put the death toll at 44 since Aug. 8.

Monsoon rains kill hundreds of people every year in India. The monsoon season runs from June to September.