23 Jun 2013

Death toll from massive India floods rises

8:25 am on 23 June 2013

Flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains have killed at least 560 people in northern India and left thousands missing.

Officials said the death toll was expected to rise significantly.

Houses and small apartment blocks on the banks of the Ganges have toppled into the rushing, swollen waters and been swept away with cars and trucks, Reuters reports.

Thousands of military servicemen are involved in rescue operations, with air force helicopters evacuating survivors in mountainous Uttarakhand state, many of them Hindu pilgrims and tourists.

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.

The rain had eased on Saturday but more is expected early next week, complicating the task of rescuers.

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 in Uttarakhand, the site of a temple to a Hindu deity.

Thousands of pilgrims have been stranded in the area, one of the worst affected. Some of those rescued by helicopter told charity officials in Dehradun they had seen bodies scattered everywhere.