Why should you visit Uttarakhand

India: Hundreds dead after storms

The number of flood victims in northern India has risen to more than 550 after days of rain. Many bodies were discovered in the mud near the Hindu pilgrimage sites of Gaurikund and Kedarnath, said Vijay Bahuguna, the prime minister of Uttarakhand, the hardest-hit state.

The exact number of victims remains unclear. According to the local authorities, almost 14,000 people are still missing. The aid organization Action Aid spoke of 5,000 missing people. Around 32,000 people are still stuck, including many pilgrims. They wanted to visit the numerous Hindu temples in Uttarakhand. The month of June is considered the high season for pilgrimages and tourism there. This year, however, the monsoon rain had started earlier than usual and surprised people.

Radhey Shyam, who made a pilgrimage to Kedarnath, is the only survivor of his family of thirteen. "My wife, daughter and relatives were all washed away by the floods," he told NDTV. "A lot of people have climbed mountains or are in the forest. They need help and must be rescued as soon as possible," he said. According to the authorities, 73,000 people have been brought to safety so far. It could take up to two weeks to evacuate everyone, it said.

Feverish search for survivors

The temple in Kerdarnath is now a cemetery, said Uttarakhand Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat. "There are corpses all over the site." Rescue workers tried to reach places cut off from the water. They used helicopters to search for survivors and dropped food packages. A helicopter crashed, but the pilot was saved. TV pictures showed people hanging along cliffs to get to safety.

Many of the survivors lost everything. "All my possessions were washed away by the floods in a matter of minutes," said one businessman. Other victims complained about a lack of help. Residents refused to give them shelter or wanted to sell them water and food that were very overpriced.

Angry relatives blocked the streets around Jolly Grant Airport in the state's capital on Friday. In doing so, they protested against a lack of support and information from the authorities. Part of the disaster was homemade, wrote Indian media. Large power plant and mining projects in the region have increased the risk of flooding, wrote the "Times of India".

In the states of Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, dozens of people fell victim to the floods in the past few days. Meteorologists predict more heavy rains in the coming days.

re / wl (kna, dpa, afp, ap)