Monsoon Floods Ravage Himalyan Region; Death Toll to Hit 1000s

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By Jacob Cherian | June 24, 2013 10:13 AM EST

In one of the worst flood disasters in India's history, this year's monsoon has already taken the lives of 128 people, according to a count earlier in the week. That figure could go up since about 60,000 people are stranded in the Uttarakhand state, near the Himalayan mountains. 

Flooding in northern India has caused roads and homes to be washed away, making the situation worse as the rains continue to pour in some parts of India. 50 landslides have stripped four stretches of road in Uttarakhand. Meanwhile, Chandigarh, Hariyana and Punjab have been fairly dry for the last twenty four hours. However, flash floods and landslides have caused the worst damage in Himachal Pradesh. The region has been struggling with disaster relief operations with eight more lives lost to the floods. An informal death toll has been updated to 138 in the two states alone.

Officials are making evacuation the primary objective, when the weather is clear. Search for bodies will be completed later. Some observers say that the loss of lives from the destruction of roads could have been prevented if they were constructed with appropriate guidelines in place. The homes crushed by floods also appear to have been on the edge of rivers, which could also have been taken care of with more safety rules.

Rescued survivors were flown to Dehradun, where they reunited with friends and family. The Indian Defense Minister, A.K. Anthony has made recue operations high on the list of priorities for the armed forces. Fifty camps have been set up to accommodate those who were stranded or evacuated, while 10,000 people were offered medical assistance and food supplies. Despite the army's efforts, bad weather conditions pose a challenge to choppers searching for survivors, DNA reported.

Lieutenant General Anil Chait, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Central Command was quoted by dnaindia.com as saying, "Indian Army and Central Command have launched one of the largest and most extensive human rescue missions that has ever been launched in the history. It is spread over 40,000 square kilometres."

The statement was resounded by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Vijay Baghuna who added that there is no way to determine a final death toll at the moment due to the boulders on highways and other obstacles hampering the army's efforts. Baghuna told reporters that it could be in the hundreds. According to the state's Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre, reported casualties have reached 150 on Friday. However, with 90 rest houses for pilgrims destroyed by floods, thousands may have lost their lives in this flood. Approximately 14,000 are missing, while 60,000 are awaiting rescue, ANI reports.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has appealed for donations to victims, is expected to take a bird's eye view of the disaster areas on a helicopter. With reports from Asia News Network

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