Rain and landslides delayed operations to rescue as many as 10,000 people still trapped in a northern Indian state a week after flash floods ravaged hill towns and killed hundreds of people.
While the army continued to evacuate people along mountain tracks, helicopters were grounded by bad weather and low visibility. There had been no flights from the helipad at Dehradun, Om Prakash, the home secretary of Uttarakhand state, said by phone. Many of those trapped are pilgrims who had been trekking to remote Hindu and Sikh shrines in the foothills of the Himalayas when torrential downpours hit.
“Our helicopter rotors will not stop churning till such time we get each one of you out, do not lose hope and hang in there,” Air Chief N.A.K. Browne said in a message to those stranded. More rain is expected over the next six days, the national weather office said.
Rescue teams have had to mend broken roads, construct makeshift bridges and restore telephone connectivity. So far, about 83,000 people have been retrieved from the region.
Shrines in the narrow valleys of the Himalayas lure thousands of Hindu and Sikh pilgrims during the summer months. While tourists usually return to the plains before the annual monsoon, this year the rains came early and in unprecedented ferocity, catching many by surprise.
As many as 1,000 people may have died, NDTV 24X7 reported citing Vijay Bahuguna, Uttarakhand’s chief minister. Federal Home Secretary R.K. Singh said in New Delhi today that the official death toll is 557.
Officials will collect DNA samples from those who have died and their bodies will be photographed so families can be sure of their identity, Singh said.
Uttarakhand, which abuts India’s border with China to the west of Nepal and has a population of about 10 million, has received almost four times the usual rainfall this month, causing rivers to burst their banks.
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