Pedestrians walk through rain in India. Incessant rains in the southern Indian state of Kerala have left 22 people dead and thousands marooned, officials said. File picture: Xinhua/Tumpa Mondal.

New Delhi - Incessant rains in the southern Indian state of Kerala have left 22 people dead and thousands marooned, officials said on Thursday.

"At least 22 deaths were reported over the last 24 hours from Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad districts," Shibu Rautel, an officer at the state's disaster management control room, said. The deaths were largely due to landslides and drowning.

Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Indian Army were helping local administrations in the rescue operations.

More than 5,000 people have been rescued from villages in low-lying areas and housed in relief camps across the state. 

Waters had to be released from 22 dams due to rising water levels and this was causing flooding downstream, officials said. This included the Cheruthoni dam on Periyar river, the gates of which were last opened in 1992.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described the situation as "very grim" at a press briefing in state capital Thiruvananthapuram. "We have sought help from the Army, Navy, Coastguard and NDRF," Vijayan said. 

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race, an annual event in Alappuzha which draws large crowds including tourists and which was to have been held on Saturday, has been postponed.

Schools in several areas remained closed, trains were delayed and the airport at Kozhikode city briefly closed.

India's monsoon season between June and September often sees heavy rains that are vital for agriculture but can cause immense destruction.

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