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Death toll expected to climb in Indian monsoon

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

At least 560 people have been killed in flash floods following a monsoon in northern India. Tens of thousands of people remain missing, and the death toll here is only expected to climb in the days ahead.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Homes and apartment blocks have toppled wholesale into the sacred River Ganges, India's longest river and a holy site for Hindus. The floodwater has been so powerful, cars and trucks have been swept away like toys.

Thousands of military servicemen have joined in rescue operations. Air force helicopters are pulling stragglers from floodwaters. Many of those rescued have been Hindu pilgrims and tourists from the foothills of the Himalayas.

About 33,000 people had been rescued so far. Railways are running special trains from the devastated areas to take people home.

The rains eased over the weekend -- but more rain is expected this coming week. It's predicted that rain will fall from Monday onwards in many places in the Himalayan foothills. As many as 150,000 people were airlifted from the reach of the floods, Dinesh Malasi, a rescue official at Dehradun, the state capital says. Sixty helicopters were pressed into the task.

Aid workers are struggling to negotiate roads blocked by landslides to reach the Kedarnath Valley, one of the worst affected areas, where thousands of pilgrims have been stranded. Some survivors told charity officials in Dehradun that they had seen bodies scattered everywhere.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered the equivalent of $3,400 U.S. dollars to the family of each of those who lost their lives and $840 to the injured from his national relief fund. He also pledged money to people who have lost their homes.

Singh has also pledged $167 million in disaster relief to Uttarakhand, home of the gods in Hindu mythology and the hardest-hit state.

More than 2,000 vehicles carrying stranded Hindu pilgrims have moved out of the area since last week.

Air force spokeswoman Priya Joshi says that 36 air force helicopters have been ferrying rescue workers, doctors, equipment, food and medicine to Kedarnath, the town closest to many of those stranded, said.

Impatient to hear word of survivors, hundreds of people looking for relatives demonstrated in Dehradun, the Uttrakhand state capital, where flood survivors were taken by helicopters.
Many complain that the government was taking too long to evacuate the survivors, with small helicopters bringing in four to five people at a time.

There's hope that the flooding will not disrupt India's food supply. he rains have not hit the summer sowing season in northern India so far, as the planting of rice, sugar, cotton and other agricultural produce is not yet in full swing.

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