BEIJING, June 22 (Xinhuanet) -- The death toll from the monsoon floods in the northern state of Uttarakhand has surged to over 550. Officials say more than 34-thousand people have been evacuated, but up to roughly 50-thousand more are still stranded.
Floods and landslides, triggered by heavy rainfall, hit northern India last Sunday. Uttarakhand was the worst affected state, with hundreds of buildings washed away. According to Indian officials, flooding and landslides have left some people in remote areas completely cut-off, and they could soon run out of water and food.
Army helicopters worked around the clock to bring in supplies for those stranded and bereaved in the hill state. Rescuers were also gaining ground in efforts to reach some 10-thousand Hindu pilgrims stranded in the holy sites of Kedarnath and Badrinath.
India’s main political opposition group, the Bharatiya Janata Party, urged the government to declare a national calamity, so that funds could be more easily allotted to the state.
The officials described the devastation in Uttarakhand as "unprecedented in 1,000 years" and said it would need at least five years for the flood-affected areas to recover.
The Times of India newspaper criticized what it saw as the man-made cause of the disaster. In an editorial, it wrote, "the growing frequency of extreme climactic events is emboldening the claim that hydropower projects, encroachments of riverbeds by buildings, and blasting of mountains to build roads are making hill states more susceptible to disaster."