At least 17 people from four families in India were buried alive as they were sleeping on Monday when heavy rains caused a large wall to collapse on their homes, police said.

The dead include two seven-year-old children, two teenagers, and their older relatives. Fire crews using excavators are still searching the rubble for more victims.

The 20-foot (six-metre) high wall crumbled at around 5:30 am some 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Coimbatore, the Times of India daily reported.

Authorities have announced compensation of 4,000 rupees (£40) for the surviving relatives of the victims for each family member they lost.

The wall collapsed amid heavy rains that have been lashing Tamil Nadu state since Saturday and have already claimed five lives, the Hindustan Times reported.

Building collapses are tragically common in India during wet periods with rickety and poorly maintained structures buckling under the weight of continuous rain.

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Forecasters say Tamil Nadu state is due to receive more heavy rain over the next 24 hours, with warnings out across all six of the state’s districts.

Schools have been closed amid the downpour, while officials have warned that reservoirs and rivers are at their maximum level.

Building collapses are tragically common in India during wet periods with rickety and poorly maintained structures buckling under the weight of continuous rain.

In July a collapsing wall killed 30 people in Mumbai.

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