Dozens killed after floods hit northern India

Climate change has not only increased the frequency of heavy rain but also its intensity, officials said.

India Floods
India Floods

At least 46 people have died and several are missing after floods triggered by heavy rain hit the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Rescuers worked through the night to retrieve bodies stuck in debris and to evacuate those in vulnerable areas, said S A Murugeshan, secretary of the state’s disaster management organisation.

The mountainous state has seen incessant rain for the past three days, flooding roads, destroying bridges and causing landslides in which several homes were washed away.

The situation has prompted help from more than 2,000 members of the paramilitary and civil police.

India Floods
Submerged cars are seen at a flooded hotel resort at the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhan (Mustafa Quraishi/AP)

The Indian Meteorological Department said the rain was likely to recede in Uttarakhand on Wednesday but warned of more heavy downpours in the country’s north eastern and southern regions.

The majority of the deaths in Uttarakhand were reported in the picturesque town of Nainital, where 28 people were killed on Tuesday, said Mr Murugeshan. Most of the deaths were caused by homes and buildings collapsing in the torrential rain.

In Mukteshwar, a popular hill station in the state, five labourers died when a wall collapsed on their shanty. In another hilly town, Ramgarh, nine members of a family died as the rain washed away their home.

Videos shared on social media showed the Ganges River bursting its banks at Rishikesh, and the scenic Nainital Lake overflowing with floodwaters.

India Floods
Hotel guests stand on the roof of Lemon Tree hotel (Mustafa Quraishi/AP)

Experts say the magnitude of the rain has been staggering. Uttarakhand saw 17.8cm of rain in the first few weeks of this month but recorded nearly 58cm within just 22 hours on Tuesday, said Bikram Singh, the director of the Meteorological Center in Dehradun, the state’s capital city.

He said climate change has not only increased the frequency of the rains but also their intensity.

Flooding and landslides caused by downpours over the week have also killed at least 39 people in the southern Kerala state, which is on high alert for more rain in the coming days.

Landslides and floods are common in India’s Himalayan north but scientists say they are becoming more frequent as global warming contributes to the melting of glaciers there.

In February, flash floods killed nearly 200 people and washed away houses in Uttarakhand.

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