Dehradun, June 20: early monsoon rains bring havoc to the Uttarakhand region of northern India, washing away roads and homes (many of them erected illegally) in the Himalayan foothills, writes Richard Meredith. Within days, the death toll reached more than 1000 including many pilgrims on religious journeys at a time they thought would be well before the annual deluge in July. Emergency services are also caught unawares and hundreds of thousands are left homeless - among them some of the poorest families in the world.
June 28 – update: "Fortunately I was about 50 miles from some of the most badly-hit areas,"added Richard.
"At Dehradun we were told that the rescue operations were being masterminded from there, but there was not much sign of it except for some increased army activity and some trucks being loaded with supplies like rice and blankets. Just outside of town we saw a helicopter base where rescuers were flying sorties around the clock up into the hills and there were harrowing scenes there as waiting crowds of relatives failed to find their loved ones being returned. Regional officials are also now coming in for severe criticism that they failed to respond quickly enough to the disaster which happened when incessant rains deposited 300% more water than normal into valleys running down from the Himalayas creating 'tsunami-type' walls of flash floods that swept away everything - and everybody - in their path. The death toll was the worst in living memory. The final toll may never be known although estimates are now up to 10,000. Amazing to think that just a couple of weeks back the number was being put at 'a few hundred'.