India floods: Toll rises after bodies found in Ganges

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Media captionAerial footage shows some of the dramatic rescue operation in Uttarakhand state

At least 40 bodies have been recovered from the river Ganges in the temple town of Haridwar, taking the toll in the flood-hit Indian state of Uttarakhand to 207, officials said.

The bodies were recovered on Friday, senior Haridwar police official Rajiv Swaroop told the BBC.

Haridwar is downstream from the region where heavy rains on Sunday night triggered flash floods and landslides.

Meanwhile, rescuers continue to search for survivors trapped in remote areas.

Officials said more than 33,000 pilgrims had been rescued in the last few days, but more than 50,000 people were still stranded.

State Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has described the floods as a "Himalayan tsunami".

Officials say that the number of dead could exceed 1,000 people, although the exact number will be known only after a survey of the entire region is completed.

Flood-related deaths have also been reported in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh states and neighbouring Nepal.

The monsoon season generally lasts from June to September, bringing rain which is critical to the farming output, but this year the rain in the north of India and parts of Nepal has been heavier than usual.

'Burial ground'

On Friday, officials said 43 helicopters were being used to drop food and medicine and evacuate people trapped in towns and villages in the northern Himalayas.

The Indian army said they were making temporary bridges and working to restore road links.

Rescuers were trying to evacuate the last of the stranded from the holy town of Kedarnath, in Rudraprayag district, which has been among the worst affected areas.

State Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat, who had visited the Kedarnath area, described the floods as the "worst tragedy of the millennium".

"It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages caused to the entire infrastructure network in the Kedarnath area which is the worst affected," the Press Trust of India quoted him as saying.

Mr Rawat said he was "shocked" to see the extent of the damage caused to the buildings and area adjoining the shrine.

"The centre of faith has turned into a burial ground. Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact," he added.

Officials say the rains in Uttarakhand have been the heaviest in 60 years and the floods have flattened hotels and homes and washed away roads and dozens of bridges.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the situation there as "distressing" and announced a 10bn rupee ($170m; £127m) aid package for the state.

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