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India floods: Mass cremations to begin for Kedarnath victims



India, 25 June 2013: Rescuers are making a push to reach thousands still stranded by flooding and landslides in northern India, as officials prepare to hold mass funerals for those killed. Air force helicopters are flying to the temple town of Badrinath to bring down the 6,000 pilgrims still stuck there.

Meanwhile police say firewood, fuel and priests have been flown to the town of Kedarnath to perform mass cremations. The floods have killed more than 600 people in Uttarakhand state. State Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said at the weekend that he feared at least 1,000 people had died. Officials say 97,000 people have been rescued so far.
Early monsoon rains in India this year are believed to be the heaviest in 80 years.

On Tuesday morning, rescue operations were delayed due to rain, but once the weather improved air force helicopters began preparing for sorties to Badrinath - the last of the areas where thousands of pilgrims are still stranded in the mountains. Air force officials say they need to get to the affected areas urgently as time is running out for survivors.

Meanwhile a senior police official in the state capital, Dehradun, told the BBC that mass funerals were due to take place in the Hindu temple town of Kedarnath, worst hit by the floods. Police says lots of bodies are piled up around the temple and many of them have begun decomposing, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder reports from Dehradun.

Many of them remain unidentified so they are being photographed and DNA samples are being taken and preserved for the families of those still missing, our correspondent adds.
The cremations are expected to carry on until Saturday, police say.Source: BBC




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