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Heavy rains lash north India, 50 killed
June 17, 2013, 10:42 pm
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While the entire country is happily bathing in early monsoon showers, now at 40% in excess for the time of the year, torrential downpours have sent mounds of earth crashing into homes, toppled trees and buildings and overflowing rivers have swallowed vast swathes of north India, leaving at least 50 people dead and thousands homeless in the muddy aftermath. Nearly 20,000 people are still trapped in various places because of landslides and wrecked roads and bridges.

It appears even while ringing in prospects of a copious farm output that would help restrain inflation, the Central government as well as governments in Uttarakhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh will be grappling with a widening arc of human tragedy as the country gears up for four major assembly elections this year and the general elections before the next monsoon.

Authorities in Uttarakhand deferred the Chardham Yatra to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. The annual Kailash Mansarovar too stands cancelled because of heavy rains in Uttarakhand. Met office in Dehradun said rains in June have broken an 88-year record. By Sunday, Dehradun had received 220 mm of rains, which blocked NH-58. As many as 123 roads in Garhwal, too, have been blocked, a public works department official said.

"Fearing further rain and landslides, the Char Dham Yatra and Hemkunth Saheb trek have been stopped," an official told news agencies. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel have fanned out to evacuate people trapped in Kedarnath and Gaurikund.

An Uttarakhand government official said a private helicopter and more than 200 two-wheelers at Govindghat near Hemkunth Saheb Gurudwara were swept away due to flash floods in Alakanda. "Those stranded in different parts of the hills are being shifted to roadside colleges and schools for medical care and food. Can't fix the exact amount of loss to property yet," said a senior IAS officer in Dehradun.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said leaves of all government employees have been cancelled and seven private helicopters and one state chopper are being used for rescue. "Pilgrims must avoid Chardham Yatra until the situation improves," he said.

In Himachal Pradesh's Kinnaur district, nine people came under a landslide that blocked important roads, leaving Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh stranded in Sangla Valley. More than 1,000 tourists were marooned in various places, including 800 in Sangla where heavy rains have obstructed rescue work. About 25 foreigners and a Doordarshan team are still wedged in Kinnaur, according to district authorities.

"Over 700 people, including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh campaigning for Mandi Lok Sabha bypolls for June 23 were stranded in Sangla valley and Army's help has been sought," said chief secretary S Roy.

"Three tourists from Israel and two families from West Bengal are stranded in Kaza and Tabo. We have not received information about the tourist stranded in other places of Spiti valley," said Lahaul-Spiti district deputy commissioner Beer Singh Thakur.

Heavy rains in Haryana, particularly Yamunanagar, caused floods and Yamuna rose menacingly, prompting authorities to sound "high alert" in Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat. Several low-lying villages were inundated after heavy rainfall hit Yamuna and its catchment areas - a rise that coincided with over eight lakh cusecs water flowing through the Hathni Kund barrage early Monday morning, taking the river's level close to the danger mark in Delhi.

At least 50 people have gone missing after a cloudburst in Rambada, Uttarakhand, officials said. The worst hit areas are Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi where the Mandakini flows unbridled. Her waters have entered the market area in Rambada.

In Yamunanagar, Haryana, 72 people including 20 children and 15 women, stranded for over 12 hours after torrential rains flooded their villages, were rescued on Monday by the Army and the IAF in a joint operation. They were rescued from Panghat, Jathlana, Safri and Lapra villages, on the banks of Yamuna and Som, a seasonal river.

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