Monsoon fury: Death toll rises to 81, rescue efforts hit

India Floods_Kand_1.jpg

New Delhi: Monsoon rains wreaked fresh havoc in northern India leading to flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips as the death toll climbed to 81 and hundreds of pilgrims bound for Himalayan shrines remained stranded.
Landslides left scores of tourists and pilgrims stranded in the hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh while thousands have been displaced in Uttar Pradesh where several rivers are in spate.
Flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips have claimed 52 lives in Uttarakhand while damaging 175 houses across the state. Officials said that the toll could rise manifold as there were many areas where rescue teams are yet to reach.
Rudraprayag was the worst hit with 20 people reported dead and 73 buildings, including 40 hotels, along the banks of the Alaknanda swept away in the swirling waters of the river.
A total of 71,440 pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are stranded in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts of Uttarakhand with the famous char dham yatra having been suspended due to massive damage to the road network. While 27,040 devotees are stranded in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi have 25,000 and 9,850 stranded pilgrims, Disaster Management authorities said.
More than a dozen helicopters have been deployed in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for relief and rescue operations with officials saying that all stranded people are expected to be evacuated soon.
Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh said food, medicines and blankets were air-dropped in remote areas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
"We have provided seven helicopters toUttarakhand. The state government has also hired four private helicopters. We are providing helicopters to Himachal Pradesh. Hopefully, all stranded people will be evacuated today," Singh said here.
Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was stranded in Kinnaur district for nearly 60 hours due to landslides, was evacuated this morning by a chopper hired by his Congress party. Singh was airlifted after rains abated and the weather cleared.
200 stranded pilgrims flown in IAF choppers to safe places
With a slight improvement in the weather today, two IAF choppers ferried about 200 stranded pilgrims from the high altitude Kedarnath shrine to Fata helipad in Rudraprayag district.
Chopper services were launched on a war footing with no fresh spell of rain in the morning at most places in the Uttarakhand, Rudraparayag SDM L N Mishra said.
So far, 200 pilgrims stuck in Kedarnath have been brought in two IAF choppers to Fata helipad from where the sick have been taken to the nearest health facilities, he said.
Bodies of three ITBP jawans and two police constables were also recovered from the debris at Kedarnath, official sources said, adding these casualties occurred yesterday.
Two IAF helicopters and an equal number of private helicopters have been pressed into service in Chamoli district where a huge number of pilgrims are still stranded.
Also read: Yamuna at Delhi above danger level
AP pilgrims safe, Kiran Kumar Reddy tells House

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