Monsoon floods kill at least 560 in Uttarakhand; thousands missing

RUDRAPRAYAG Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:14am IST

1 of 5. Soldiers assist a woman during rescue operations in Govindghat in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

RUDRAPRAYAG (Reuters) - Flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains have killed at least 560 people in Uttarakhand and left tens of thousands missing, officials said on Saturday, with the death toll expected to rise significantly.

Houses and small apartment blocks on the banks of the Ganges, India's longest river and sacred to Hindus, have toppled into the rushing, swollen waters and been swept away with cars and trucks.

In pictures: Uttarakhand flood crisis reut.rs/11H7aId

"It has been a horrifying experience," said Tulika Srivastava, a visitor from Lucknow, who has been stranded with her 80-year-old mother in the key pilgrimage town of Rudraprayag since last week.

Thousands of military servicemen are involved in rescue operations, with air force helicopters plucking survivors, many of them Hindu pilgrims and tourists, from the foothills of the Himalayas.

About 33,000 people had been rescued so far this week, the home ministry said. Railways were running special trains from the devastated areas to take people home.

"Whatever is humanly possible is being done," information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari told reporters.

The rains had eased on Saturday but more rain is expected early next week, complicating the task of rescuers. Rain will fall from Monday onwards in many places in the Himalayan foothills, said a weather official who sought anonymity.

As many as 150,000 people were airlifted from the reach of the floods, said Dinesh Malasi, a rescue official at Dehradun, the state capital, with 60 helicopters pressed into the task.

Aid workers are struggling to negotiate roads blocked by landslides to reach the Kedarnath Valley, one of the worst affected areas, where thousands of pilgrims have been stranded. Some of those rescued by helicopter told charity officials in Dehradun they had seen bodies scattered everywhere.

Kedarnath, the site of a temple to a powerful Hindu deity, is 86 km from Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand.

"The deaths will certainly rise," said Madan Mohan Doval, an official of Sphere India, a group of non-government bodies working in the area that includes international charity Plan as well as the Indian Red Cross Society.

"People are in immediate need of basic aid such as dry food, clean drinking water, clothes, medicines, tarpaulin sheets for shelter and blankets," Doval added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered 200,000 rupees to the family of each of those who lost their lives and 50,000 rupees to the injured from his national relief fund. He also pledged money to people who have lost their homes.

Singh promised 10 billion rupees in disaster relief to Uttarakhand.

The rains have not hit the summer sowing season in northern India so far, as the planting of rice, sugar, cotton and other agricultural produce is not yet in full swing.

(Additional reporting by Sruthi Gottipati, Ratnajyoti Dutta and Nita Bhalla in NEW DELHI; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Kashmir Attack

Kashmir Attack

Ten dead in Kashmir's worst militant attack in more than a year  Full Article 

OPEC Meeting

OPEC Meeting

Gulf states seek to block OPEC oil output cut.  Read 

E-Commerce Boom

E-Commerce Boom

Online grocers come up trumps in India's e-commerce boom   Full Article 

GDP, RBI Preview

GDP, RBI Preview

GDP growth set to weaken, business wants reforms more than rate cut  Full Article | Related Story 

Jaitley to Rajan

Jaitley to Rajan

Jaitley likely to meet Rajan on Monday to urge rate cut  Full Article 

Banking Sector

Banking Sector

RBI releases final rules for niche bank licensing  Full Article 

Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy

Photo Gallery – Bengali household name Jamini Roy’s paintings  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage