North India floods: Bad weather hits rescue operations

North India floods: Bad weather hits rescue operations

Bad weather is hampering rescue operations in the flood-hit northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, where nearly 150 people have died.

Rain and cloudy weather prevented helicopters from taking off from the capital, Dehradun, early on Thursday.

More than 62,000 pilgrims are stranded in the state.

State Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has described the floods as a "Himalayan tsunami" and said "very heavy casualties" are feared.

Flood-related deaths have also been reported in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh states and neighbouring Nepal.

The monsoon season generally lasts from June to September, bringing rain which is critical to the farming output, but this year the rain in the north of India and parts of Nepal has been heavier than usual.

The BBC Hindi's Nitin Srivastava in Dehradun says there are reports of rain in the affected areas and a light drizzle in the capital, leading to a temporary suspension of rescue operations.

Air force official R Isser told the BBC that five rescue helicopters cut short their trips and returned to Dehradun because of bad weather early on Thursday.

The operations resumed later in the morning, officials said.

The floods have swept away buildings and triggered landslides in some places, blocking roads. More than 20 bridges have collapsed.

Senior Uttarakhand official Om Prakash told the state broadcaster Doordarshan that the death toll in the floods in the state had gone up to 150, and that several villages in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts were still inundated.

Mr Bahuguna said the death and destruction in the floods was "unprecedented", and that the toll would rise further.

The vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority told The Indian Express the rains in Uttarakhand had been the "heaviest in 60 years".

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

"The maximum devastation has been in [the temple town of] Kedarnath and its vicinity," he said. "The priority is to rescue the stranded and provide urgently needed succour to those most needing it."