INDIA, June 20, 2013 (BBC): The scale of devastation in Uttarakhand is staggering. As rescuers establish contact with more of the affected villages and settlements, they say many have been flattened to the ground.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna flew over Kedarnath, Guptkashi, Govindghat and Joshimath areas to assess the damage. Most of the temple town of Kedarnath – apart from the main Shiva temple – is buried under mud and debris. There are scenes of devastation everywhere. Officials said it would take at least three to four years to get the town back on its feet.
Many of the villages remain cut off with emergency workers unable to reach marooned villages. There are are reported to be groups of people stranded in remote areas without any supplies. Most roads are still closed and many bridges, homes, schools and hotels have been damaged, hampering the relief operation.
Military helicopters and the army are leading rescue operations in India’s flood-hit northern states, where 138 people are now known to have died. About 10,000 people have been rescued in worst-hit Uttarakhand state over three days, PM Manmohan Singh said.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims are still stranded in Uttarakhand, where more than 100 people have been killed. Flood-related deaths have also been reported in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh states and neighboring Nepal.
The monsoon season generally lasts from June to September, bringing rain which is critical to the farming output of both countries, but this year the rain in the north of India and parts of Nepal has been heavier than usual. The floods have swept away buildings and triggered landslides in some places, blocking roads. More than 20 bridges have collapsed.