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India floods: Death toll in Uttarakhand 'passes 500'The death toll from flooding and landslides following heavy monsoon rains in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand has passed 500.


The state's Chief Minister, Vijay Bahuguna, said 556 bodies had been seen floating or buried in "slush", and that the army was working to recover them.


The charity Action Aid says 5,000 people are missing in the area.


Many of those stranded in the mountainous region are Hindu pilgrims visiting local shrines.


The worst affected area is around the holy town of Kedarnath.


The Indian Army is leading rescue efforts. The authorities say troops have yet to reach some remote mountain areas.


Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said more than 33,000 pilgrims had been rescued in the past few days, but at least 50,000 people were still stranded.


Indian military personnel load relief supplies for flood-hit areas into an Mi-17 helicopter at the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, state capital of Uttarakhand on June 21, 2013 The state capital Dehradun is the base for relief efforts

Earlier on Friday, 40 bodies were recovered from the river Ganges in the temple town of Haridwar, according to local police official Rajiv Swaroop.


Haridwar is downstream from the region where heavy rains on Sunday night triggered flash floods and landslides.


Flood-related deaths have also been reported in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh states and neighbouring Nepal.


The monsoon season generally lasts from June to September, bringing rain which is critical to farming, but this year the rain in the north of India and parts of Nepal has been far heavier than usual.



State Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat, who had visited the Kedarnath area, described the floods as the "worst tragedy of the millennium".


Geeta Devi

           “Start Quote

                                   It has been the worst five days of my life”

                                                                                            Geeta Devi

"It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages caused to the entire infrastructure network in the Kedarnath area which is the worst affected," the Press Trust of India quoted him as saying.


Mr Rawat said he was "shocked" to see the extent of the damage caused to the buildings and area adjoining the shrine.


"The centre of faith has turned into a burial ground. Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact," he added.


Officials say the rains in Uttarakhand have been the heaviest in 60 years and the floods have flattened hotels and homes and washed away roads and dozens of bridges.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the situation there as "distressing" and announced a 10bn rupee ($170m; £127m) aid package for the state.



Source: BBC

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