More than 550 killed in record monsoon rains in northern India

Friday 21 June 2013 22.14
Indian military personnel load relief supplies for flood-hit areas in the state capital of Uttarakhand
Indian military personnel load relief supplies for flood-hit areas in the state capital of Uttarakhand

More than 550 people have lost their lives in record monsoon rains in northern India.

A huge evacuation operation is underway to get tens of thousands of people to safety.

Rescuers found bodies in the River Ganges and in the muddy, broken earth left by landslides.

The air force dropped food and medicine for people trapped in up to 100 towns and villages cut off since Sunday in the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand where thousands of people are stranded.

Uttrakhand state Chief Minister Vijay Bahguna said 556 bodies have been noticed buried deep in slush and the army was trying to recover them.

Rakesh Sharma, another state official said the death toll might reach the thousands but the exact figure would not be known until the entire region is checked.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in New Delhi that 34,000 people have been evacuated so far and another 50,000 were stranded in the region. Roads and bridges were washed away by the floods or blocked by debris.

Hundreds of people looking for relatives demonstrated in Dehradun, the Uttrakhand state capital, where flood survivors were taken by helicopters.

They complained that the government was taking too long to evacuate the survivors, with small helicopters bringing in four to five people at a time.