Dehradun, India – At least 24 people were killed, nine of them in a temple collapse, and dozens more were feared missing after intense rains caused floods and landslides in India, officials said on Monday.
Days of torrential downpours have washed away vehicles, demolished buildings and destroyed bridges in the northern states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Flooding and landslides are common and cause widespread devastation during India’s treacherous monsoon season, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.
Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, chief minister of the worst-affected state Himachal Pradesh, said at least 16 people had lost their lives in the past 24 hours, including nine in a Hindu temple collapse in state capital Shimla.
“The local administration is diligently working to clear the debris in order to rescue individuals who may still be trapped,” the chief minister said in a statement.
Images from hard-hit areas showed bodies being pulled out of thick piles of dark earth that have crushed buildings and smashed in roofs.
Thousands of people have been stranded, with key roads, power lines and communication networks disrupted.
Railway lines were seen dangling in midair, with the ground beneath them washed away.
Sukhu, who posted on social media a ‘disturbing’ video of a raging torrent swamping roads, appealed to residents to stay indoors and avoid going near rivers.
Schools in the state had been shut, he added.
The President of India, Droupadi Murmu, said she was ‘hurt with the loss of lives in accidents because of heavy rains’ and offered her condolences to the families who have suffered in Himachal Pradesh.
In neighbouring Uttarakhand state, rescue teams raced to remove debris after people were feared buried when heavy rainfall triggered landslides.
Five people were buried under the debris after a landslide hit a resort near the popular yoga retreat of Rishikesh on the banks of the river Ganges.
District police superintendent, Shweta Choubey, told AFP that a girl had been rescued from the site but that the rest of her family was still under the collapsed building.
At least eight people have been killed since Friday in the state, officials said.
Several riverside towns and villages in both the Himalayan northern states were at risk of flash floods from the heavy rain predicted in the region.
The monsoon brings South Asia around 80 per cent of its annual rainfall and is vital both for agriculture and the livelihoods of millions. But it also brings destruction every year in the form of landslides and floods.
Last month, days of relentless monsoon rains killed at least 90 people, while the capital New Delhi saw the Yamuna river – which snakes past the megacity – record its highest levels since 1978.