x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

3,000 still missing in Himalayan floods

Thousands of soldiers, backed by military helicopters, have wound down rescue efforts after evacuating more than 100,000 stranded people.

DEHRADUN // Some 3,000 people remain missing in India's flood-ravaged north two weeks after the tragedy, but it was unclear how many of those have been killed.

About 1,000 people, many of them pilgrims and tourists, have been confirmed dead after flash floods and landslides caused by torrential monsoon rains hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand on June 15.

Thousands of soldiers, backed by military helicopters, have wound down rescue efforts after evacuating more than 100,000 people stranded in the state, which was packed with tourists on pilgrimages to remote Hindu temples and shrines.

"As per information we have received, 3,000 people are still missing," Uttarakhand's chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, said in the state capital, Dehradun.

Mr Bahuguna announced that families will receive 500,000 rupees (Dh30,900) in compensation if their loved ones are still missing after the next 30 days.

Some of those initially reported missing may have returned home or continued with their travels but failed to notify local authorities, officials said.

The exact death toll may never be known because some of the bodies may have been washed away or buried under tonnes of debris, Mr Bahuguna said.

A state lawmaker said late on Saturday the death toll could cross 10,000 but the figure was rejected as "guesswork" by Mr Bahuguna.

A 200-strong team of specialists has been scouring the worst-hit temple region of Kedarnath for bodies, which may still be trapped under debris or swept away by floods and landslides.

"Clearing tonnes of debris lying in the affected areas and extricating decaying bodies which may be lying under them is our topmost priority at the moment," said state director-general of police Satyavrat Bansal.

Rescue workers have recovered bodies in rivers hundreds of kilometres downstream from the flood zone, underscoring the difficulty of finding all those who perished.

* Agence France-Presse