Thousands feared dead in Indian floods

Thousands feared dead in Indian floods
Priests offer prayers to Varna, Hindu god of rain

More than 5,700 people missing since last month’s devastating floods that ravaged northern India are presumed dead, the government has said.

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said the Uttarakhand state government would give financial compensation to the families of people who might have died in the floods and landslides that hit the Himalayan region in June.

The government had earlier put the death toll at 600 but repeatedly stressed that it would be significantly higher.

Mr Bahuguna said recovery operations to locate the missing would continue.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindus visit Uttarakhand’s temple towns during the summer. Usually the visitors return before July, when monsoon rains make the mountainous area much more treacherous.

This year, unprecedented heavy rains fell around mid-June and caught many unaware.

Mr Bahuguna said the exact number of people who died may never be known.

“The search operations will continue till the family members of the missing are satisfied,” he told a group of survivors as the state government began handing out compensation cheques to the families of the dead.

The Uttarakhand government has announced that it will pay compensation of 500,000 rupees to the families of each victim.

Roads, bridges and multi-storey buildings were washed away as flooded rivers rampaged through the state, burying entire villages in silt and debris.

Army and paramilitary soldiers and volunteers rescued more than 100,000 people stranded in remote areas cut off by washed-out roads and landslides.

The air force and private companies made thousands of helicopter sorties to pick up people stuck on rooftops or marooned on hilltops and to drop off food and drinking water.

Mr Bahuguna said the government would rebuild the worst-hit temple town of Kedarnath, where hundreds died on June 16 when a sea of silt and flood water roared down a mountain valley, sweeping away everything in its path.

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