x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Death toll from India floods likely to top 1,000 in Uttarakhand

Army suspends rescue operations for more than 10,000 stranded people after bad weather.

Indian soldiers help stranded people cross a flooded river after heavy rains.
Indian soldiers help stranded people cross a flooded river after heavy rains.

JOSHIMATH, India // Soldiers recovered more bodies as they cleared debris in villages flattened by landslides and monsoon floods in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. The recoveries were expected to bring the death toll to more than 1,000 yesterday.

Army officials suspended rescue operations after bad weather early yesterday reduced visibility in the mountainous area. The troops were attempting to rescue more than 10,000 stranded people, many in the temple town of Badrinath.

Two landslides yesterday blocked roads that had been cleared by soldiers only a few days earlier.

"We are just waiting for the weather to clear up and visibility to improve before the aircraft can take off," said RS Brar, an air force official in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand.

Meteorological officials predicted more heavy rain in Uttarakhand over the next few days.

The home minister, Sushikumar Shinde, said the death toll would exceed the figure of 1,000 given on Sunday by the Uttarakhand government. More bodies were being found as troops and disaster rescue teams cleared debris from buildings and houses destroyed by flood waters, Mr Shinde said.

The unprecedented heavy rains triggered landslides and floods in the Ganges River last week, washing away thousands of houses and roads and cutting communication links in large areas of Uttarakhand.

Uttarakhand is a popular summer holiday destination for tourists seeking to escape the torrid heat of the plains. It is also a religious pilgrimage site, with four temple towns in the Garhwal Himalayan range. Most of the people stranded in Uttarakhand were Hindu pilgrims at the four revered shrines.