India floods: Rescue efforts intensify, as death toll rises

The Indian Army is leading rescue efforts

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Efforts have intensified in northern India to rescue tens of thousands of people trapped by flash floods that have already killed nearly 600 people.

The army is evacuating survivors in mountainous Uttarakhand state by helicopter and special trains are carrying people from affected areas.

More than 40,000 people are still stranded in what the government has described as a "national crisis".

Officials have admitted a lack of co-ordination in the rescue effort.

Geeta Devi

Start Quote

It has been the worst five days of my life”

End Quote Geeta Devi

Forecasters are predicting more rain.

Early monsoon rains in India this year are believed to be the heaviest in 60 years.

The rainy season generally lasts from June to September, bringing rain which is critical to farming.

'Lack of co-operation'

Government officials say more than 33,000 people have already been rescued from the worst-hit areas over the past several days.

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But during a visit to the area, Home Minister Shushil Shinde admitted there was a 'lack of co-ordination amongst agencies involved in relief operations".

Many locals are also complaining of neglect from relief agencies, alleging priority is being given to tourists and Hindu pilgrims, the BBC's Nitin Srivastava in Dehradun reports.

"Whatever is humanly possible is being done," Information Minister Manish Tewari told reporters.

The authorities say they are yet to reach many survivors in remote areas cut off by flash floods, as the army is struggling to repair roads and bridges.

One of the worst-hit areas is the Kedarnath Valley, where thousands of pilgrims remain stranded.

Many survivors have been evacuated to the state capital Dehradun, where relatives of those missing await news.

Dehradun is also the base for the relief effort, from where rescue workers, medicines and food are being flown to the affected areas.

The Kedarnath Temple amid flood destruction (18 June) The floods have flattened homes and washed away roads and bridges

At least 560 are known to have been killed and thousands are missing. The death toll is expected to rise further.

On Friday, 40 bodies were recovered from the river Ganges in the temple town of Haridwar, a local police official said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the situation there as "distressing" and announced a 10bn rupee ($170m; £127m) aid package for the state.

Google has opened up its person finder tool in Hindi and English to help trace missing people in Uttarakhand.

India's National Disaster Management Authority has published control room phone numbers for flood-affected districts.

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