India floods: Rescuers race to save survivors

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Media captionThe BBC's Sanjoy Majumder reports from Uttarakhand state

Rescuers in northern India are making a concerted push to reach 7,000 people still stranded in the mountains after flash floods and landslides.

Air force officials say they need to get to the affected areas urgently as time is running out for survivors.

In Uttarakhand state, where the death toll is expected to pass 1,000, there was more rain on Monday with further downpours predicted.

More than 600 people are confirmed dead while 80,000 have been rescued.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told the BBC over the weekend he feared at least 1,000 people had died.

Early monsoon rains in India this year are believed to be the heaviest in 80 years.

Extensive damage

Thousands are still stranded in the holy pilgrimage site of Badrinath higher up in the Himalayas after flash floods hit the region last week, the BBC Hindi's Nitin Srivastava reports from Rishikesh.

But rescue operations are being hampered by rain and mountains are covered in mist, our correspondent reports.

On Monday morning, helicopters carrying special forces to find survivors were forced to turn back because of bad weather, air force officials told the BBC.

On Sunday, officials said the severely damaged Hindu temple town of Kedarnath had been cleared of survivors and teams were searching for the bodies of victims.

Tourists and pilgrims were among those caught up in the floods, which washed away homes, roads and bridges.

So extensive is the damage that even a week after the devastating floods and landslides, there is still no clarity on the true number of people missing or dead.

Meanwhile, hundreds of relatives are camping in the state capital, Dehradun, looking for missing family members and friends.

Some say the government has not kept them informed, while others blame the disaster management agencies for the "slow response".

Thousands of army, paramilitary and disaster management officials have been working for the past week to help those trapped in remote villages and settlements.

Those rescued have harrowing tales to tell.

One woman who was rescued by army helicopter said she had walked at least 25km (15 miles) trying to escape the floods.

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

The rainy season generally lasts from June to September, bringing rain which is critical to farming.

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