Monsoon havoc: Rescuers race against time as India flood toll nears 1,000

Nearly 63,000 people still stranded or missing in Uttarakhand state.

Agencies June 23, 2013
In this handout photograph released by the Indian Ministry of Defence, Indian military personnel help rescue pilgrims that were stranded by flood waters in Uttarakhand state, on June 22, 2013. PHOTO: AFP/MINISTRY OF DEFENCE


Relief teams were racing against time on Saturday to rescue tens of thousands of stranded people in rain-ravaged northern India as the death toll from flash floods and landslides neared 1,000.

Rescuers have recovered scores of bodies from the swollen Ganges river with nearly 63,000 people, mainly pilgrims and tourists, still stranded or missing after torrential monsoon rains struck the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, officials said.

Raging rivers have swept away houses, buildings and entire villages, and destroyed bridges and narrow roads leading to pilgrimage towns in the mountainous state, which is known as the “Land of the Gods” for its revered Hindu shrines.

“Almost 575 bodies have been recovered so far but the toll is likely to go up. As per our records, 62,790 people are still stranded,” Uttarakhand home secretary Om Prakash told AFP Saturday. The state chief minister said 1,000 were feared dead.

A seven-member team of doctors and officials was on its way to the popular Hindu pilgrimage site of Kedarnath “to collect the bodies lying there,” Prakash added.

Dozens of helicopters and thousands of soldiers have been deployed to rescue the trapped people, almost one week after the rains hit.

Rescue teams were bracing for more challenges with further downpours expected in the state and also in parts of central India from Sunday onwards.

The Indian Express said rescuers had a “narrow window of just 48 hours” to complete their operations. These were the worst Himalayan floods in decades.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2013.


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