Rain fury on Tuesday claimed 11 more lives in the north India, taking the toll to 73, even as 71,440 pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines remained stranded in monsoon-ravaged Uttarakhand apart from 1700 people stuck in Himachal Pradesh.
Though rescue efforts picked up momentum in flash flood and landslide hit areas of Himachal and Uttarakhand with a let up in the rains and decrease in water level in the Ganga and its tributaries, the whole of Uttarakhand still wore a marooned and devastated look.
Flashfloods, cloudbursts and subsequent landslips have claimed 44 lives in Uttarakhand, left as many injured and fully damaged 175 houses across the state.
Rudraprayag was the worst hit where 20 people perished and 73 building including 40 hotels along the banks of the Alaknanda were swept away by the swirling waters of the river.
A huge number of pilgrims totalling 71,440, who were bound for the Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are stranded in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts with the famous char dham yatra still suspended due to massive damage to the road network.
The maximum number of 27040 devotees are stranded in Chamoli, 25000 in Rudraprayag and 9,850 in Uttarkashi, Disaster Management authorities said.
Officials said water level of Bhagirathi in Uttarkashi and Ganga in Rishikesh had begun to recede.
In Himachal Pradesh, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who was stranded in tribal Kinnaur district for nearly 60 hours due to landslides triggered by incessant rains, was evacuated this morning even as 1700 people remained stranded at various places.
A chopper hired by Congress party airlifted the chief minister this morning as rains abated and weather cleared this morning and about a dozen persons, including some old and ailing persons were brought to Rampur in the state helicopter, officials said.
Television footage showed bridges, houses and other buildings crashing down and being washed away by the swirling waters. A swollen river is seen engulfing a giant statue of Lord Shiva in the tourist city of Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.
Fresh rains in Uttarakhand were hampering rescue efforts, with teams from the national disaster management authority camping in the popular pilgrimage town of Haridwar awaiting air lift to the worst-affected districts, officials said.
The state government was also readying food parcels and drinking water to be dropped by helicopters to remote villages cut-off by the torrential rains.
"The situation is very grim. The meteorological office has predicted that the rain will continue for another three days at least," government official Amit Chandola was quoted by television stations as saying.
In the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh, at least eight people were feared dead, a local police official said by telephone.
A few villages close to the border with China have also seen unseasonal snowfall, leaving dozens of shepherds and thousands of sheep stranded, a village headman said.
The met department predicted more rains over the next two days in northern India.
Sources say more than 60,000 people are stranded at different places on the route of the Chardham Yatra - Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath.
The onward trip to Hemkunt Saheb - the sacred pilgrimage for Sikhs - has also been abandoned for now, officials say.
At many places while the gushing rivers have washed away roads and caused land slides, flood waters has entered several villages on banks of the Alaknanda river.
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra has also been stopped for now.
The Ganga is flowing two metres above the danger mark and an alert has been sounded and people have been asked to desist from bathing in the holy river.
Army officials say bases have been made for rescue operations in Bareilly and Sarsawa.
Members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are however unable to move further from Dehradun owing to inclement weather.
Fourteen choppers of the Indian Army have also been put on standby for rescue operations.
Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna while admitting that the situation was "grave", said that the government was working swiftly to rescue people stranded at different places and providing relief to the flood effected areas.
The public works department (PWD) of Uttarakhand has confirmed "serious damage" to 450 roads in the state.
Regional Met director of Uttarakhand Anand Sharma said the situation might slightly improve from Tuesday evening onwards as the rains are likely to subside.
Several trains, including Sriganganagar Express, Hemkund Express and Janshatabdi have been cancelled due to flooding of tracks, a railway official said.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Malan and Ganga rivers are in spate in western parts of the state and the army has been called in Mandawar and Rawli areas of Bijnore.
Several houses collapsed in Sardhana area of Meerut while 18 people were killed in Saharanpur in roof collapse and a car was washed away by rain water.
The rains, which began Saturday night, have continued for the past three days. The Met department said the rains in the month of June have since broken an 88-year record. Between Saturday and Sunday, Dehra Dun received 220 mm of rains and by evening, another 220 mm of rains.
The worst-hit areas include Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi, where Mandakini river is in spate. In Rambada, the river water entered the market area.
With the met department having forecast more thunder showers, the already grave situation may worsen with more landslides as the hillsides have become weak following incessant rain, said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
In Himachal, five members of a family, including three children, were buried alive early Monday when boulders fell on their house at Chagaon village near Tapri, some 220 km from Shimla, Superintendent of Police G. Shiva Kumar said over phone.
The entire Kinnaur district has been experiencing heavy rain for the past two days, while Pooh block experienced over one feet of snow, which locals said was untimely.
Shiva Kumar said five other people died in various landslide and rain-related incidents in the district since Sunday.
All the deaths in Uttar Pradesh were in Saharanpur, where many pilgrims are trapped in the Shakumbhari Devi area following the rain and floods.
Among the dead were a chief medical officer from Punjab and his family of five, who drowned after being caught in raging river waters.
Flooding has been reported from Saharanpur, Bijnore, Muzaffarnagar, Gorakhpur, Siddharthanagar, Azamgarh, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ballia and Varanasi.
Delhi saw heavy rains over the weekend and intermittent showers continued Monday morning. The city received 58.5 mm of rain from 8.30 p.m. Sunday to 8.30 a.m. Monday, leaving roads inundated and traffic snarls in the morning rush hour.
In Haryana, rescue teams Monday evacuated 52 villagers, including 15 children, from a riverine island in Yamunanagar district while rescue operations were on in Karnal district where nearly 200 people were stranded in Shergarh Tapu and Chandrao villages.
The Yamuna river, which enters Haryana from Uttarakhand at Hathnikund barrage in Yamunanagar district, had swelled since early Saturday after over 800,000 cusecs of water was released Monday morning through the Hathnikund barrage.
With the water expected to reach Delhi on Tuesday, the city government Monday began evacuating people from low-lying areas along the banks of the Yamuna.
The monsoon this year had set over Kerala on schedule June 1 and advanced fast, covering the southern, eastern and central states within two weeks.
(With inputs from AFP, PTI, IANS)