Hundreds of people have been evacuated and rescuers continue searching for people feared missing in floods and landslides that have killed at least 60 in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, including 11 who died in the collapse of a popular temple.
“More than 800 people were evacuated from the low-lying areas of Kangra near the Pong Dam as their villages became inaccessible due to the elevated water level in the dam reservoir,” Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said on Wednesday.
“Evacuation operation is still on as more people are being evacuated,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Days of torrential downpours have washed away vehicles, demolished buildings and destroyed bridges in the northern Himalayan state.
Flooding and landslides are common and cause widespread devastation during India’s monsoon season, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.
Thousands of people have been stranded after disruptions to roads, power lines and communication networks.
“The suffering of those affected cannot be relieved with money, but the government will provide all possible help to them in this hour of distress,” Sukhu, the chief minister, said on Tuesday.
At least 11 people died when a landslide triggered the collapse of a popular temple for the Hindu deity Shiva in state capital Shimla.
Elsewhere in the state, railway lines were seen dangling in midair after the ground beneath them was washed away.
Sukhu said the disaster was the worst to hit Himachal Pradesh in the past 50 years. Tuesday’s annual celebrations of Independence Day, marking the end of British colonial rule, were scaled down to concentrate on rescue efforts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking from the Red Fort in New Delhi for his Independence Day address, said that recent natural disasters had caused “unimaginable troubles” for families across the country.
“I express my sympathies towards all of them and I assure them that state and central governments will work together,” he told the crowd.
At least 13 more people have also been killed since Friday in neighbouring Uttarakhand state, officials said on Tuesday.
Rescue teams there raced to remove debris after people were feared buried when heavy rainfall triggered landslides.
Five people were buried when a landslide hit a resort near the popular yoga retreat of Rishikesh on the banks of the river Ganges.
Nearly 350 roads around Uttarakhand had been closed to traffic, according to state disaster bulletins.
Several riverside towns and villages in both states were at risk of flash floods from the heavy rain forecast.
The monsoon brings South Asia about 80 percent of its annual rainfall and is vital for both agriculture and the livelihoods of millions. But it also brings destruction every year in the form of landslides and floods.
Days of relentless monsoon rains killed at least 90 people last month, while the capital, New Delhi, saw the Yamuna River, which snakes past the megacity, record its highest levels since 1978.
Forecasters expect heavy rains to continue across the Indian Himalayas until at least Friday.