India Floods Toll Rises, Thousands Still Stranded

June 19, 2013; 5:30 AM
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Unusually early onset of the Indian summer monsoon has sparked torrential rain, catastrophic flooding and landslides in northern India.

The death toll has risen to at least 138 people, the Times of India website said on Wednesday. Ten of thousands of religious pilgrims had been stranded as of Monday in the rugged Himalayan region.

Although thousands of people were still stranded on Wednesday, a favorable turn in the weather helped to allow the rescue of thousands of others in the hard-hit states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Many rescues were undertaken via helicopter, the Times said.

Uttarakhand bore the brunt of the devastating floods and landslides, which washed away buildings and took out roads. Video captured the scenes of buildings collapsing into raging torrents as river banks crumbled.

At Rudraprayag, 40 hotels were among 73 buildings along the Alaknanda River that were swept away, the Times said. The town was but one of several districts in which the pilgrims were stranded following massive road damage.

Upper reaches of the Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Shadra rivers swelled into flood, the Times said, as heavy runoff swept from the Himalayan Foothills to the plains.

Rainfall between Saturday and Monday was at least 25.7 inches at Dehradun in southern Uttarakhand, weather data available to AccuWeather.com showed.

Improved weather by Tuesday allowed some water levels to recede, and the situated "improved greatly" on Wednesday, the Times said in its website. Prospects were for minimal rainfall through at least Friday, according to meteorologists with AccuWeather.com, which would favor cleanup and rescue work.

People gather to watch a bridge submerged in the flooded water of the River Ganges in Rudraprayag, in northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Torrential rain and floods washed away buildings and roads, killing at least 23 people in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, officials said Monday. (AP Photo)

Elsewhere in India, torrential rain pounded wide areas of the north and west, between Friday and Monday.

Forecasters in Mumbai had warned of "extreme" rain and the likelihood for continued flooding on Monday, the Times said. One site in the city, Santa Cruz, had rainfall of at least 13.6 inches, meteorological observations indicated.

Cloudbursts that struck the capital region of New Delhi triggered street flooding, transportation cuts and power outages, the Times said.

The onset of the rainy summer monsoon was unusually early over northern India and neighboring Pakistan. By the 16th of June, all of India was within the fold of the southwest monsoon, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The last time this happened was in 1961, the Times said.

Monsoon onset was about two weeks earlier than average in New Delhi and up to four weeks ahead of schedule along parts of the India-Pakistan border.

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