Relief teams were racing against time yesterday to rescue tens of thousands of stranded people in rain-ravaged northern India as the death toll from flash floods and landslides neared 600.
Rescuers have recovered scores of bodies from the swollen Ganges River with the government saying more than 30,000 people were still stranded after torrential monsoon rains struck the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand last week.
Raging rivers have swept away houses, buildings and entire villages, and destroyed bridges and narrow roads leading to pilgrimage towns in the mountainous state.
Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who arrived in state capital, Dehradun, yesterday, said 73,000 people had been rescued so far with up to 32,000 still stranded.
“At least 550 people have died and 392 people are injured,” he told reporters.
Rescue teams were bracing for more challenges with further downpours expected in the state from today.
A group of 20 trekkers including six Americans were rescued yesterday after they were marooned near a remote glacier since the rains struck last week.
Also yesterday, the army managed to make contact with about 1,000 people stuck in mountains near Kedarnath, the NDTV news network reported.
The military operation, involving about 50 helicopters and more than 10,000 soldiers, was focused on reaching those stranded in the holy town of Badrinath after earlier finding widespread devastation in the Kedarnath temple area.
The Indian Air Force was transporting heavy equipment for repairs of roads and construction of temporary helipads, according to an official press release.
Shinde said some of the bodies recovered from different places in the state were “badly mutilated,” making it difficult to identify them.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had on Friday attacked the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for not issuing adequate warning ahead of the heavy rains, saying the local government was unable to prepare for the deluge and evacuate people on time.
“The IMD warning was not clear enough,” he said.