49 people have died, nine of them in collapsed temples, and dozens more are feared missing after torrential rains caused catastrophic floods and landslides in India, officials said Monday (14/8).Days of heavy rain have washed away vehicles, destroyed buildings and destroyed bridges in the northern Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Floods and landslides are common and cause widespread damage during India’s treacherous monsoons, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.
In Himachal Pradesh, 41 people have died in the last 24 hours, up from 16 previously, according to official data. That includes at least nine people killed in the collapse of a Hindu temple in the state capital, Shimla.
“At least 13 others are missing,” he said. “Local authorities are diligently clearing debris to save people who may still be trapped,” chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said in a statement.
At least eight other people have died since Friday in the neighboring state of Uttarakhand, officials say. Images from the worst-hit areas in Himachal Pradesh show bodies being pulled out of the thick piles of dark earth that have crushed buildings and shattered roofs.
Thousands of people were displaced, with main roads, power lines and communications networks disrupted. The railroad tracks were seen dangling in the air, with the ground beneath them being washed away. India’s President, Droupadi Murmu, said he was “hurt by the loss of life in an accident due to heavy rains” and offered his condolences to the suffering families in Himachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, rescue teams in Uttarakhand are racing to remove debris after people were feared buried when torrential rains triggered landslides. Five people were buried under rubble after a landslide hit a resort near the popular yoga retreat Rishikesh on the banks of the river Ganges.
District police inspector Shweta Choubey told AFP that a girl had been rescued from the site but the rest of her family were still under the collapsed building.
Several towns and riverside villages in both states are at risk of flash flooding due to forecast heavy rains in the region. Monsoons bring South Asia about 80% of its annual rainfall and are critical to agriculture and the livelihoods of millions of people.
But it also brings destruction every year in the form of landslides and floods. Relentless monsoon rains for days killed at least 90 people last month.