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Deaths Mount From Floods in India and Nepal

By Vibhuti Agarwal, Krishna Pokharel, NEW DELHI (WSJ): The death toll from floods and landslides in northern India and western Nepal reached at least 108 people, with thousands stranded and 41 missing, government officials said Wednesday, as a sustained period of heavy rainfall eased.

Monsoon rains since Saturday triggered floods and landslides in the mountainous Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Anil Chandola, a spokesman for the Uttarakhand government, said 71 people have died in the state and 23 are missing, while authorities in neighboring Himachal Pradesh said at least 15 people have been killed in landslides.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party President Sonia Gandhi visited Uttarakhand Wednesday. Mr. Singh said the federal and state government were working in close coordination “to deal with the immediate aftermath of the ghastly tragedy.”

Nepal’s Home Ministry said Wednesday that 22 people died in remote western districts of the country after homes collapsed or were swept away by floods and landslides following heavy rain in the last three days. The ministry said 18 people are missing.

A senior official at the India Meteorological Department’s office in Pune, which tracks the monsoon, said the weather system that had brought in the rains was diminishing, but he warned that precipitation would increase in eastern and northeastern India and Bangladesh. Nepal will also get more rain, he said.

The Nepalese Army, the Red Cross and locals are carrying out rescue and relief operations, the ministry said. In India, the central government has deployed 15,000 soldiers and 24 Air Force helicopters to assist with rescue efforts in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, said Mr. Chandola.

“The pace of relief operations has picked up after the rain stopped yesterday [Tuesday],” he said. More than 22,000 people have been rescued in Uttarakhand in the last two days but around 60,000 people remain stranded, Mr. Chandola said.

Many of these people are pilgrims who were visiting holy sites in the area. Every year, people trek to four shrines — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — as part of the Char Dham pilgrimage. From May to October, Kedarnath Temple alone receives around 5,000 pilgrims a day, temple authorities say.

Mr. Chandola said buildings surrounding the centuries-old Kedarnath Temple were badly damaged by floodwaters, but the temple itself was unscathed. Jagmohan Bartwal, manager of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee, added several hundred people were inside the temple when the floods struck. They have been rescued, he said.

Mr. Chandola said it would take three more days to clear routes to the shrines. The Uttarakhand government has made arrangements to airdrop food packets and medicines on villages cut off by the rains, he said.

J.K. Sinha, a member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, said rescue operations, particularly in the mountainous north, were hampered by a lack of sufficient equipment and poor roads. “The flash floods are an eye-opener for us,” he said.

Mr. Sinha said authorities plan to identify vulnerable regions and use radars in mountainous areas to warn people well in advance of heavy rain. “The assessment to evaluate the losses in the rain and floods has begun,” he added.

Several parts of New Delhi and its suburbs have also been affected by the heavy rains. The capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport was partly flooded Sunday. Though skies were clear in New Delhi Wednesday evening.

The Delhi government has moved more than 500 people from low-lying areas on the banks of the swollen Yamuna River and placed them in tented camps in the capital, a government official said Wednesday.

The southwest monsoon this year has advanced over India at the fastest rate in more than half a century, covering the country by Sunday, about a month ahead of normal. The last time the annual rains spanned the entire country at such speed was in 1961, but even then it wasn’t until June 21 that all of India was covered.

The northeast monsoon usually reaches Nepal by June 10 and spreads from east to west across the country within four days, according to Barun Paudel, a meteorologist at Nepal’s department of hydrology and meteorology.

“This year, the monsoon winds from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea hit Nepal at the same time on June 14 causing abnormally heavy rainfall in the western part of the country,” Mr. Paudel said.

He said western Nepal, which has been hardest hit by floods and landslides, had received 19.3 centimeters of rainfall since the monsoon’s arrival. In a typical monsoon, the area receives a total of 19.2 centimeters of rainfall in the entire month of June, he added.

Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, received 38 centimeters of rainfall in 24 hours between Sunday and Monday morning, the most rain ever recorded in the city, according to an official from the India Meteorological Department.

The early arrival of the rains was caused by a low pressure, cyclonic area over northwest India, the India Meteorological Department’s director general L.S. Rathore said.

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

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Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point
Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point
Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point