India floods: Death toll rises amid heavy rain


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The Independent Online

The death toll following another 24 hours of severe flooding in northern India has risen to more than 70, according to local media reports.

Heavy rain today claimed 11 more lives, taking the estimated total casualties to 73 since the monsoon started last weekend.

The Hindustan Times, one of the largest newspapers in India, reported deaths in landslides and flash-floods in Uttarakhand, Kinnaur and Rudraprayag, where torrential rain continues to batter the local population.

While rain has sprawled across north west India, the focus for much of the chaos remains Uttarakhand state, which borders Nepal.

At least 45 people have died there and more than 150 buildings have been damaged, with at least one being completely washed away.

However, according to reports, Rudraprayag has quickly become the locus of the most treacherous conditions, with 20 people dying and 73 building, including 40 hotels along the banks of the Alaknanda, being swept away in the last two days.

An additional 15 people were also killed in flood-related incidents in Uttar Pradesh, a town further south, state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported.

Thousands more pilgrims have also become stranded. Estimates of the total number Hindus who remain cut off along roads to Himalayan shrines in the region now vary from 30,000 to 70,000, tens of thousands more than was approximated yesterday.

The annual monsoon was not due to reach northern India for another 10 days but it struck over the weekend, having spread at a speed not seen since 1961.

Army and paramilitary troops are continuing efforts to rescue people and the state government is readying food parcels and drinking water pouches to be air dropped to villages cut off after roads were washed away.

“The situation is very grim. The meteorological office has predicted that the rain will continue for another three days at least,” said Amit Chandola, a government spokesman, yesterday.