India flood rescue hindered by ‘very severe’ rain and landslides – Government prepares for mass cremations – ‘Overwhelming stench of bodies and rotting carcasses pervades the air’Posted by Jim at Monday, June 24, 2013
By Basharat Peer
24 June 2013
(The New York Times) – Rain and landslides have limited efforts to rescue the victims of floods in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Military helicopters were unable to fly there for most of Monday, and the Indian Meteorological Department warned of “very severe” rain in the next three days. Several roads were further damaged by new landslides. Thousands of stranded pilgrims and villagers in flood-stricken areas remained in need of food and medicine.
Five thousand pilgrims have been stuck for more than a week in Badrinath, a major pilgrimage center in the mountains. In New Delhi on Monday, India’s home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, said that more than 1,000 flood victims could be found dead once debris was removed. That number was considered a very conservative estimate. It was widely feared that the dead would number in the thousands. The Indian government was making preparations for mass cremations of the victims.
By Basharat Peer, with contributions from Hari Kumar and Malavika Vyawahare
23 June 2013
NEW DELHI (The New York Times) – Dense fog and rain briefly hampered efforts on Sunday to evacuate thousands of people stranded in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, where at least 1,000 people have died in monsoon flooding and landslides, army officials said.
The army suspended helicopter flights to rescue stranded people after heavy fog descended on the Himalayan region on Sunday morning, but the evacuation flights resumed in the afternoon, the military said. Troops were also building makeshift bridges, and some people were being rescued by soldiers on the ground, according to a statement released by the Defense Ministry.
On Sunday, Indian troops evacuated 1,000 stranded people from the mountains around Jungle Chatti in the Kedar Valley of Uttarakhand, the ministry said.
More rain is expected in the area over the next few days, according to the India Meteorological Department.
Most of those who were stranded were on a pilgrimage known as Char Dham Yatra, which takes Hindus to four of the holiest shrines in Uttarakhand between May and November. But thousands of residents of villages in the flood-hit areas have also been affected.
“I was stranded in a bus for three days, and we were stuck near a village where the roads had been washed away by the floods,” said Avinash Kumar, a businessman from the state of Uttar Pradesh, who had gone on the pilgrimage with his wife and two sons. “We could see the nearby village from the bus, and the floods and lightning had destroyed most of its houses away. Who knows what happened to the villagers?”
Bhaskaranand Joshi, secretary of revenue and disaster management in Uttarakhand, said that the number of people evacuated had risen to 94,000 on Sunday and that 9,000 people were still stranded. Mr. Joshi said 127 relief camps had been set up throughout the state. […]
The Sunday Tribune, an Indian newspaper, reported from the hardest-hit area in Uttarakhand that “an overwhelming stench of bodies and rotting carcasses pervades the air.” [more]