Early monsoon rains have swept northern India, causing floods and landslides, killing at least 1,000 and leaving tens of thousands missing, officials report. About 100 towns and villages remain cut off since Sunday, and the death toll is expected to rise.
Many of the missing are pilgrims and tourists that were at the foothills of the Himalayas at the Ganges river, which is sacred to Hindus, at the time the disaster struck.
Buildings, cars and trucks along the banks of the river have been swept away or flooded.
Thousands of troops have been deployed to assist in the rescue operations, and the air force has dispatched helicopters to pick up survivors.
Around 34,000 people have been rescued from the area, and 50,000 are still stranded in 100 towns and villages in the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand, Home Affairs Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters.
Northern India has been experiencing monsoon rains since Sunday. Authorities have dispatched emergency trains to the devastated areas to rescue people.
"Whatever is humanly possible is being done," Reuters quoted Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari as saying.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the state will provide financial support from its national relief fund, with US$3,400 to be given to families who lost members, US$840 to those suffering injuries, and financial support provided to those who lost their homes.
The prime minister also pledged US$167 million to Uttarakhand, the hardest-hit state.
Hundreds of people came out in Uttrakhand’s capital Dehradun to search for missing relatives and express discontent with what they believe is the government’s slow response to the disaster. Witnesses told AP that authorities were not efficient at evacuating survivors and lacked appropriately-sized vehicles to transport large numbers people at a time.
"There was destruction all around", said 50-year-old
housewife Jasveer Kaur after she was evacuated. "It was a
Google has launched its Person Finder application to help people locate and trace missing individuals.
World leaders are offering their help to India to tackle the aftermath of the disaster. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences on the heavy death toll and severe damage and offered Russia’s support in tackling the consequences, the Kremlin press service stated.
The monsoon rains have now alleviated, though more are expected next week.
Heavy rain is important for planting season in India, but if the floods continue, then sowing season may be delayed, and crops already been planted put at risk.