Stranded in Uttarakhand: 50,000 trapped by flooding and landslides after 'Himalayan tsunami' hits India

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Fears that death toll of 150 could soar, with up to 14,000 unaccounted for


Indian troops and rescue workers are battling to help 50,000 people still trapped in the Himalayan foothills after massive monsoons triggered devastating flooding and landslides. The Indian media has reported that up to 14,000 could still be unaccounted for and that the death toll of the "Himalayan tsunami" of around 150 people could soar.

In conditions made desperately difficult as result of roads being washed away, around 10,000 soldiers and dozens of helicopters are spearheading efforts to reach people that have been cut off since monsoon rains hit at the weekend.

Reports say food and clean water is in short supply and that operations are being hampered by the problems of getting fuel to the helicopters. On Friday evening it was reported that 40 bodies had been discovered floating in the River Ganges close to the city of Haridwar.

India's home ministry said a total of 33,100 people had been rescued so far but that at least 50,400 are still stranded. India's NDTV television channel said a further 14,000 people remain unaccounted for and that officials and rescue workers are concerned the death toll in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand could leap.

"The tragedy is huge and damages tremendous with vast tracts of land still submerged under tonnes of debris. The casualties must run into several hundreds," Vijay Bahuguna, the chief minister of Uttarakhand told reporters. One of his senior officials said the final death toll could be "shockingly huge".

Many of those left struggling for their lives were tourists and Hindu pilgrims who flock to the mountains during the summer months to visit numerous shines. Among the worst hit areas were the pilgrimage towns of Kedarnath and Badrinath where homes, roads and even temples were washed away.

The rescue effort has been undermined by the challenge of refuelling the helicopters, which have been are operating out of the village of Guptkashi, located at 4,300ft in the Mandakini river valley.

Fuel is usually transported to the helipad by tanker, but because the roads have been washed away choppers are instead having to fly to the state capital, Dehradun, to refuel and then return to Guptkashi. This has been sharply reducing the number of sorties the helicopters can fly

The monsoon rains that sweep across South Asia every year bring both life and death. While hundreds of millions of people are dependant on them for the water and irrigation they deliver, every year results in flash-floods, landslides and worse.

Experts say that in India's case, the natural calamity has been worsened by man-made excess and negligence. Deforestation of the Himalayan valleys, unregulated construction and the establishment of large dams for hydro-electricity schemes which weaken the valley walls, have all been blamed for contributing to the scale of the disaster.

Environmentalists have said climate change that has resulted in increased glacial melt could also be a factor.

Professor Maharaj Pandit of Delhi University's department of environmental studies, said the phenomenon of cloudbursts was nothing new to the Himalayas. Yet he said regulations that prohibited the building of properties close to rivers were being flouted and no-one being held responsible.

He also suggested recent years had been a massive increase in pilgrims - something he called "neo-religious tourism". "There days there are billboards advertising the pilgrim sites and these are sponsored by various political and religious groups," he said.

He added: "Now you have up to 100,000 to 200,000 pilgrims a day. These people have to be accommodated and they are put up in cheap shanties."

At the same time, preparedness for the disaster appears to have been minimal. The Times of India reported that an audit of Uttarakhand's disaster management authority, created in 2007, had never actually met or issued any guidelines or regulations for the state, considered a "disaster-prone" area.

"The state authorities were virtually non-functional," said the auditors' report.

Indian paramilitary officers have been building rope and log bridges across raging rivers to try to reach those stranded. Nearly 10,000 soldiers along with 13 teams from the so-called national disaster response force have been deployed for the rescue and relief effort, the government said.

In the aftermath of the disaster, India's prime minister Manmohan Singh, has launched an appeal for charitable donations. Over the border in Nepal, floods and landslides also triggered by the monsoon have left at least 39 people dead, mostly in remote parts of the country.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower