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Incredible Flood Damage Across Northern India

Early monsoon rains hit India with record speed this week, killing at least 120 people so far and leaving tens of thousands stranded or missing. Prime minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday that "it is feared that the loss of life could be much higher."

Heavy rains caused the worst damage in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, located in the foothills of the Himalayas. Downpours there have left roads, homes, cars and cell phone towers destroyed.

Most of those stranded in Uttarakhand are pilgrims. As many as 73,000 Hindu and Sikh pilgrims who traditionally make their journey to religious sites in the region each June are now stuck. Yashpal Arya, Uttarakhand's minister for disaster management and rehabilitation told Bloomberg News, "this is the worst flash flood in about 90 years. The state has been devastated.” Air force helicopters there have airdropped commandos to help rescue those who are stuck. 

According to an Associated Press report, the Kedarnath temple, one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, has escaped major damage, but the area around it is now up to 10 feet of debris.

Monsoon rains cause destruction across India every year, but this year's have hit especially hard. Rainfall at twice the usual level is being reported in northwest and central India. The annual monsoon usually makes landfall in the southern part of India each June, covering the entire country by mid July.
 

Prime minister Singh announced a 10 billion rupee ($170 million) relief package for those affected. Rains are expected to ease up in the next week.

Via Reuters, scenes from around India as it deals with this month's record monsoon:


A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 17, 2013. Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges, India's longest river, swept away houses, killed at least 60 people and left tens of thousands stranded, officials said on June 18, 2013. Picture taken June 17, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)


A boy sits on a ladder next to his flooded house with the rising water level of river Yamuna after heavy monsoon rains in New Delhi June 19, 2013. The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual in northwest and central India as the June-September monsoon spreads north, covering the whole country a month faster than normal. (REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee)


Vehicles are submerged in the rising waters of river Yamuna in New Delhi June 19, 2013. The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual in northwest and central India as the June-September monsoon spreads north, covering the whole country a month faster than normal. (REUTERS/Stringer)


Residents stand next to their submerged houses after heavy monsoon rains which caused the rise in waters of Yamuna river in New Delhi June 20, 2013. The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual in northwest and central India as the June-September monsoon spreads north, covering the whole country a month faster than normal. (REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee)


A man unlocks the door of his flooded house as other residents watch after a rise in the water level of river Yamuna in New Delhi June 19, 2013. The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual in northwest and central India as the June-September monsoon spreads north, covering the whole country a month faster than normal. (REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee)


A member of the rescue operation team of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) or Armed Border Force walks towards the officers training centre damaged by floods at their campus in Srinagar in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 19, 2013. Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges, India's longest river, swept away houses, killed at least 138 people and left tens of thousands stranded, local newspapers reported. (REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)


Damaged houses are seen at a village in Rudraprayag in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 20, 2013. Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges, India's longest river, swept away houses, killed at least 138 people and left tens of thousands stranded, local newspapers reported. (REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)


Commuters push their bicycles through a flooded road after heavy monsoon rains caused the rise in waters of Yamuna river in New Delhi June 20, 2013. The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual in northwest and central India as the June-September monsoon spreads north, covering the whole country a month faster than normal. (REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee)


A stranded mouse rests on a stick next to the rising waters of river Yamuna in New Delhi June 19, 2013. The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual in northwest and central India as the June-September monsoon spreads north, covering the whole country a month faster than normal. (REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee)

Keywords: Delhi, Flooding, India

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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