Uttarakhand: At least 46 killed in floods in Himalayan state

At least 46 people have died in flash floods triggered by heavy rains in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Images and videos from the state show flooded roads, submerged homes and fallen bridges.

Experts say the Himalayan state, a popular tourist spot, is seeing the effects of both climate change and rampant construction.

Floods have also ravaged the southern state of Kerala, where at least 26 people have died in recent days.

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Both states have recorded excessive rainfall this year, according to data from India’s weather department. Kerala, for instance, recorded 453.5mm rainfall as opposed to the 192.7mm that is considered normal during this time of the year.

Uttarakhand, which normally sees up to 30.5mm rainfall in October, recorded 122.4mm in the last 24 hours alone. But weather officials have said there is likely to be a “significant reduction in rainfall” from Tuesday.

‘The most difficult seven hours of my life’
Rescue efforts are still continuing in affected areas, senior police official Nilesh Bharne told BBC Hindi.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed 16 teams which have rescued some 300 people so far.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees (£3,800;$5,300) for the families of those who have died in the floods and a further 190,000 rupees for those whose homes were destroyed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on Twitter: “I am anguished by the loss of lives due to heavy rainfall in parts of Uttarakhand. May the injured recover soon.”

Such short spells of excessive rainfall have become more common in the state, Bikram Singh, director of the regional meteorological centre in Uttarakhand, told Hindustan Times newspaper.

An under construction bridge is seen collapsed on a river along a national highway between Pithoragarh-Champawat, in Chalthi on October 19, 2021 following heavy rainfalls in northern India
IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,Overflowing rivers have swept away bridges
He said it’s likely there were more cloudbursts and intense spells that haven’t been recorded due to a lack of weather stations in many areas.

While he attributed the heavy rains to the climate crisis, experts have long pointed to other ecological changes in Uttarakhand which have caused landslides and contributed to other disasters such as flash floods. They have cited hydro-power projects in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, and excessive and often unchecked construction on steep slopes which cause damage to the region’s fragile ecology.

Experts also say higher temperatures have meant lesser snow in the Himalayas – and this, coupled with heavy rains, is pushing large volumes of water downstream, triggering flash floods.


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