Heavy rains and landslides have killed more than 60 people in the northern Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as devastating flooding hits the region during the monsoon season.
Most of the deaths happened in Himachal Pradesh where at least 55 people have died since Saturday, the state’s chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu told Indian news agency ANI during a visit to affected areas on Tuesday.
Rescue operations and restoration work remains underway, he said, adding that the death toll may rise further.
In one of the deadliest incidents, at least nine people died on Monday when flooding caused a temple in the state capital Shimla, a popular tourist area, to collapse. The incident happened at around 8 a.m. local time, Sukhu told Indian news agency ANI during a visit to the temple site on Monday.
The bodies of those who died have been retrieved and the “local administration is diligently working to clear the debris,” Sukhu posted on X (previously known as Twitter) on Monday.
Five people have been rescued but around 20 to 25 people remained trapped as of Monday.
Sukhu posted on X on Monday, saying “we have directed the authorities to ensure all possible assistance and support to the affected families during this trying period.”
“I appeal to people to stay indoors, to not venture near rivers and landslide-prone areas,” he said.
Traffic police officials have also urged the public to avoid traveling due to the ongoing heavy rain, with the Indian Meteorological Department issuing a red alert for the state.
Videos and images shared on social media show destroyed roads and fallen trees, while and water gushing down mountains sends huge rocks flying.
India’s home affairs minister Amit Shah posted on social media that the loss of life was “extremely distressing.” National Disaster Response Force teams are “engaged in relief and rescue operations along with the local administration. I express my deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” he added.
Heavy rains have also affected neighboring Uttarakhand state, killing five people, the state’s Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Sinha told CNN on Tuesday.
Ten NDRF teams have been deployed across the state to assist with rescue operations, the NDRF Commander Sudesh Drall in Uttarakhand told CNN on Tuesday.
Himachal Pradesh, in northern India, has been one of the worst-hit states in the monsoon season. In July, more than 30 people in the state were killed after flash floods and landslides.
A statement from Sukhu’s office Monday said this monsoon season had seen the highest number of “cloudburst incidents,” or very sudden and destructive rainstorms, in the state for the past 50 years.
Some scientists say the human-caused climate crisis is making India’s monsoon season more chaotic and erratic.
CNN’s Tara Subramaniam contributed reporting.