Heavy rains wreak havoc in Uttarakhand, flood warning in UP, Delhi

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Heavy, continuous rains hit life in several north India states and wrought havoc in Uttarakhand where the death toll has reached 29 while thousands were stranded after landslides, officials said Monday. With more rains expected, the situation is likely to worsen in the hill state while flood warnings have been issued in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

Ten deaths, including five members of a family, were reported from Himachal Pradesh while 1,500 tourists, mainly from West Bengal, remained stranded in remote Kinnaur district after incessant rainfall triggered landslides.

Also stranded was Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was electioneering for the Mandi parliamentary by-poll slated June 23.

In Uttar Pradesh, 15 people were killed in heavy rains and floods in Saharanpur and a flood alert was sounded in several districts as the Ganga, Ghaghra and Sharda are in spate, officials said.

The situation in Uttarakhand led to suspension of the annual Kailash Mansarovar yatra owing to the relentless rains and consequent landslides.

Rescue operations are being carried out in the hill state by the army, para-military Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and disaster management authority.

According to information from state officials, the deaths have been reported from Rambada (13), Gaurikund (2), Harshil (1), Vikas Nagar (4), Dhanaulti (1), Dehradun (3), Chamoli (1), Patal Ganga (1) and three deaths in other places.

Hundreds of pilgrims enroute to the Char Dham Yatra - Badrinath, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Yamunotri- continued to be trapped between landslides and gushing waters of several rivers which are in spate.

Officials informed IANS that more than 5,000 people were stranded in Uttarkashi, 1,000 in Joshimath, 10,000 in Govindghat, more than 10,000 in Badrinath and 6,000 in Ghaghria.

The state government has asked officials to barricade the route before Rishikesh and ask pilgrims and tourists to go back.

The rains, which began Saturday night, have continued for the past two days. The Met department said the rains in the month of June have since broken an 88-year record. Between Saturday and Sunday, Dehra Dun received 220 mm of rains and by evening, another 220 mm of rains.

The worst-hit areas include Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi, where Mandakini river is in spate. In Rambada, the river water entered the market area.

With the met department having forecast more thunder showers, the already grave situation may worsen with more landslides as the hillsides have become weak following incessant rain, said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

In Himachal, five members of a family, including three children, were buried alive early Monday when boulders fell on their house at Chagaon village near Tapri, some 220 km from Shimla, Superintendent of Police G. Shiva Kumar told IANS over phone.

The entire Kinnaur district has been experiencing heavy rain for the past two days, while Pooh block experienced over one feet of snow, which locals said was untimely.

Shiva Kumar said five other people died in various landslide and rain-related incidents in the district since Sunday.

All the deaths in Uttar Pradesh were in Saharanpur, where many pilgrims are trapped in the Shakumbhari Devi area following the rain and floods.

Among the dead were a chief medical officer from Punjab and his family of five, who drowned after being caught in raging river waters.

Flooding has been reported from Saharanpur, Bijnore, Muzaffarnagar, Gorakhpur, Siddharthanagar, Azamgarh, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ballia and Varanasi.

Delhi saw heavy rains over the weekend and intermittent showers continued Monday morning. The city received 58.5 mm of rain from 8.30 p.m. Sunday to 8.30 a.m. Monday, leaving roads inundated and traffic snarls in the morning rush hour.

In Haryana, rescue teams Monday evacuated 52 villagers, including 15 children, from a riverine island in Yamunanagar district while rescue operations were on in Karnal district where nearly 200 people were stranded in Shergarh Tapu and Chandrao villages.

The Yamuna river, which enters Haryana from Uttarakhand at Hathnikund barrage in Yamunanagar district, had swelled since early Saturday after over 800,000 cusecs of water was released Monday morning through the Hathnikund barrage.

With the water expected to reach Delhi Tuesday, the city government Monday began evacuating people from low-lying areas along the banks of the Yamuna.

The monsoon this year had set over Kerala on schedule June 1 and advanced fast, covering the southern, eastern and central states within two weeks.

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