NEW DELHI, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 1,000 people are feared dead in monsoon floods which swept through the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand last Sunday, washing away roads and houses, the state's Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said.
"The death toll is definitely more than 750 may be around 1,000. But like I said, the National Disaster Response Force team and Army team till they return and the Kedarnath (remote holy town in one of the state's hilly terrains) slush is cleaned up and the number of people washed away is not fixed, we cannot give a definite toll," the chief minister was quoted by the media as saying Saturday.
However, official estimates by the central government put the death toll below 700.
Meanwhile, authorities said that rescue operations have been halted temporarily due to bad weather since this morning even as some 22,000 people are still stranded at various places. So far, over 75,000 people have been evacuated from the difficult terrains of the hilly state by the Indian Army and Indian Air Force which have pressed into service more than 50 choppers.
The Indian Army has, however, appealed to the people still stranded at various places in the hilly state, not to panic, assuring that "rescue operations are on war footing."
Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who visited the flood- hit areas of Uttarakhand Saturday, said that all those stranded would be rescued in the next two days.
The Indian weather office Saturday predicted more rainfall in the state by Monday.
Monsoon arrives in India at end of June and stays till September every year. This year, however, showers came about a fortnight earlier. Moreover, Uttarakhand is said to have experienced the heaviest rainfall in the last 60 years.