NEW DELHI – Nearly 600 people have been killed by devastating monsoon flooding in northern India and 50,000 remained stranded Friday with more rain in the forecast, authorities said.
Flooding in the mountainous Himalayan state of Uttarakhand coincided with a period when 60,000 Sikh and Hindu pilgrims were trekking to four sacred sites in the region. Many pilgrims, tourists and local residents were trapped as roads, bridges and houses were washed away.
“We would do the best we can to evacuate all those stranded,” Air Marshal S.B. Deo told reporters.
Local media dubbed the disaster a “Himalayan tsunami” that could ultimately claim hundreds, even thousands, more lives.
Vijay Bahuguna, Uttarakhand’s chief minister, told the local CNN-IBN news channel late Friday that 556 bodies had been recovered from mud and debris and more could be buried.
“It's very tragic that so many people have died in this calamity,” he said.
In the Hindu calendar, Tuesday was celebrated as the anniversary of the Ganges River, considered a god, descending to Earth.
News video showed cars, trucks and three-story houses swept away by the raging river, and the area around Kedarnath, devoted to Lord Shiva, nearly flattened, with corpses strewn about and no signs of life. Authorities said many corpses were swollen and badly damaged, making identification difficult.