Leaders in the south Indian state of Kerala opened near-overflowing dams today, after at least 26 people died when heavy rains lashed the state over the weekend.

Rainfall across the state led to flash floods and landslides in several areas, with the Indian army and navy called out to rescue residents.

Opening dams could reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic overflows like those partly blamed for the state's worst floods in a century in 2018, when at least 400 people were killed and 200,000 displaced. But by releasing water downstream, the move could also worsen the situation in areas already experiencing floods

Authorities have already opened smaller dams to prevent flooding, while state Power Minister K Krishnankutty said in a statement the Idukki dam, the state's largest, will also be opened if the rains continue.

At least 13 people were killed by a landslide in Kuttikkal village, officials and eyewitnesses said.

"There were four landslides that happened there yesterday, the hill behind me, which brought water and other items downwards," a local resident told Reuters partner ANI yesterday, standing in front of now-barren hillside.

PK Jayasree, the top government official in Kottayam district where the landslide took place, said almost half of the casualties were from a single family.

"One family completely lost six members," he said.

Light rainfall across the state is expected to continue, although weather alerts in many areas had been withdrawn, the state's disaster management committee said in a statement.

Kerala was also a victim to the worst floods in a century in 2018 that had killed at least 400 people and displaced around 200,000.

India, with 1.3 billion people, relies on rainfall to support its population, many of whom live rely on farming.

But excessive rainfall can cause floods, landslides and water-borne diseases.