Nearly 600 killed by Indian monsoon rain and landslides
FLASH floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains have killed at least 575 people in northern India, with tens of thousands still missing and entire villages destroyed.
Rescue efforts involving 12,000 soldiers are continuing, and more than 50 air force helicopters have been dropping food, water and medical supplies to people trapped by the water in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Tourists and pilgrims have been caught up in the disaster in Uttarakhand, a holy place for Hindus, where tens of thousands had been visiting ahead of the expected arrival of the rainy season. Many people have been stranded for five days in what the Indian government has called a national disaster.
The flooding, which began almost a week ago with the heaviest rainfall in 60 years, has worsened steadily, with houses and blocks of flats on the banks of the Ganges toppling into the torrent and being swept away with cars, trucks and even bridges.
Government officials said at least 33,000 people had been rescued and 63,000 were missing, 40,000 of them pilgrims. Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who arrived in the Uttarakhand capital of Dehradun to review rescue efforts, said operations were now on a war footing to evacuate the stranded.
The rain eased yesterday, but more is expected from today, meaning rescuers face a narrowing window of opportunity to reach the stranded.