UTTARAKAND, INDIA, June 20, 2013 (The Telegraph):India's military battled on to reach villages and towns cut off by flash floods and landslides in the country's north as officials warned at least 1,000 people may have been killed. Helicopters and close to 10,000 soldiers have been deployed to rescue tourists and pilgrims stranded after floods caused by torrential monsoon rains, four and a half times more than usual, hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand at the weekend known as the "Land of the Gods", where Hindu shrines and temples built high in the mountains attract many pilgrims.
"There are some 3,000 of us stuck in Gangotri (a pilgrimage site) for the past few days and there is no food, no drinking water or assurances from the government," a pilgrim, Parwinder Singh, told CNN-IBN by telephone. At least 138 people have been killed across Uttarakhand and two neighboring states also hit by floods and landslides, officials said, but shrine authorities warned the toll was more than 1,000.
"We estimate more than 1,000 people have died as unattended bodies are scattered all around," said Ganesh Godiyal, chairman of a trust in charge of several shrines in the pilgrimage towns of Kedarnath and Badrinath. The military operation was concentrating on reaching the worst-hit Kedarnath temple area, as families of the missing faced an anxious wait in Uttarakhand capital's Dehradun.
"There is nothing left in Kedarnath now except the temple," pilgrim Sitaram Sukhatiahe told the Press Trust of India after arriving by helicopter in Dehradun. "It was shocking to watch a place bustling with people metamorphose in a matter of a few hours into an island of death and destruction," he said.
One of those stranded was Indian cricket star Harbhajan Singh, who was attempting to reach a Sikh pilgrimage site but had to take refuge in a police station."Some people are saying that we're stuck but I wouldn't say that we're stuck, I'd say we've been saved by God," said the spin bowler, who was later flown out of the flood-hit area by military chopper.