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Weather

Rains soak Indian Himalayas, hundreds missing

Rescuers in India's Himalayan state of Uttarakhand say they have located 4,000 people trapped by landslides, but eight villages are feared washed away by unusually heavy monsoon flooding. More than 100 people have died.

The government of India's state of Uttarakhand said on Thursday that troops and medics were still trying to reach eight villages thought washed away by floodwaters in recent days.

State spokesman Amit Chandola put the official death toll at 105, but also said authorities had been unable to reach eight villages.

"We don't know yet what happened to hundreds of people living there," he said.

Television footage of the region showed destroyed and damaged bridges and buildings. Key highways have been blocked.

Mainly Hindu pilgrims

So far, army and airforce personnel using helicopters have evacuated nearly 14,000 people who had been stranded. Another 61,000 remained cut off, mainly Hindu pilgrims who had been visiting four revered shrines in the area.

The airforce said 30 helicopters and airplanes had dropped food packets and other supplies to stranded visitors. Some 5,000 soldiers had helped evacuate homeless to temporary camps.

State Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said the famed Kedarnath temple, located atop the Garhwal Himalayan range, had escaped major damage, but up to 10 feet (3.04 meters) of debris covered its perimeter.

Rain unusually heavy, early

Uttarakhand has received 380 millimeters (15 inches) of rain over the week, nearly five times the average for that period, according to India's government.

Adjoining central and western regions of Nepal have also been lashed by incessant rains. Officials put Nepal's death toll at 19.

The monsoon rains arrived a fortnight ahead of schedule.

ipj/msh (IPS, dpa, AP)

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