At least 160 people have died and thousands are stranded or missing after brief torrential rains caused massive flooding and landslides in the Himalayan foothills of India's Uttarakhand state, northeast of Delhi.
Many expect the number of casualties to rise, as bodies are said to have been washed away by the flash flooding. Among some 60,000 stranded are Hindu pilgrims from across India, visiting the area's holy shrines. Currently some 45 military helicopters and 10,000 troops are engaged in rescue operations hampered by washed roads, bad weather, and continuing landslides. Still, some 33,192 pilgrims had been rescued as of Thursday, according to a ministry press release.
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"The tragedy is huge and damages tremendous with vast tracts of land still submerged under tons of debris. The casualties could run into several hundreds," the state's chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, said in a press conference Thursday.