Death toll across north India reaches 131, worse feared

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The death toll from the incessant rain, cloudbursts and landslides across Uttarakhand had reached 52 on Tuesday, officials said.

Fifty police personnel posted near Kedarnath were feared missing, authorities said, as they struggled to get a clear picture of the devastation in the remote mountainous regions.

The final toll could be in the hundreds, officials said. They said 27,000 pilgrims were stranded, and 11 choppers were called in to rescue them.

The total number of deaths across north India had reached 131 by Tuesday, PTI reported. Thousands have been displaced in Uttar Pradesh, where several rivers were in spate.

In Himachal Pradesh, 11 people were killed in floods and landslides, 10 of them in Kinnaur alone. About 1,700 people remained stranded across the hill state. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was stranded in Kinnaur district for nearly 60 hours, was evacuated Tuesday morning by a private helicopter the Congress party had hired to campaign in the Mandi bypoll.

The Union home ministry said in Delhi that the Centre has pressed over a dozen helicopters to evacuate people in the two states but they could be used only Tuesday morning when the weather cleared.

It also said 12 additional teams of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) had been despatched to Uttarakhand to join the Army, ITBP and BSF personnel in rescue operations launched on Tuesday after it rained for 72 hours.

Reports reaching the state headquarters said personnel at the police camp near Kedarnath could not be reached. "There is no communication with about 50 police personnel posted at Kedarnath police camp until this evening. However, about 60 jawans posted at Gaurikund police camp are safe. They had moved to a higher place," said a police source.

Officials said the Kedarnath temple area faced the fury of the downpour around 7 pm on Sunday. The floodwater came with large rocks that hit the back wall of the temple. "Those who were inside the temple probably survived but those who were outside at different spots cannot be traced," said the officer who was a part of the rescue team and spoke to survivors.

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