The human toll from flooding, caused by unusually heavy rains at the start of the monsoon season, is escalating in northern India. Rescue and relief operations in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand are ongoing as estimated rise to over 500 dead and 5,000 missing. The extent of the disaster, however, may not be clear until the region has been fully surveyed.
Agencies are said to have rescued 34,000 while 50,000 remain stranded. The Indian Air Force is dropping food and medicine. CNN has a images here, and the picture to the right captures the devastation around the temple at Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Thousands of pilgrims and tourists are sheltering in forests awaiting rescue, almost a week after flash floods and landslides hit northern India, wiping out villages and leaving at least 150 dead, officials say.
Helicopters and thousands of soldiers have been deployed to rescue people stranded at remote pilgrimage sites after devastating torrential monsoon rains hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand last weekend. Rescue workers who have managed to reach those stranded are racing to cut down trees and clear vegetation to allow military helicopters to land and evacuate those most in need, a state official said on Friday.
While most pilgrims in the region are visiting Hindu shrines, there are also Sikh pilgrims travelling in Uttarakhand.
I should also note that government authorities are facing strong criticism from the Indian media for calling the flooding a purely natural disaster (as well as for the efficacy of rescue efforts and disaster planning systems). The BBC has a good round-up with links to some articles from English-language sources. The BBC article quotes on piece on the “Himalayan tsunami” from the Times of India: “The growing frequency of extreme climactic events is emboldening the claim that hydropower projects, encroachments of riverbeds by buildings, and blasting of mountains to build roads are making hill states more susceptible to disaster.”