38 Israelis remain unreachable in India due to monsoon flooding

Ambassador holds assessment with rescue groups as further rains forecast; no Israelis reported hurt, but destroyed infrastructure making establishing contact difficult

People navigate their way through a flooded street following heavy rainfall in New Delhi, India, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (AP/Manish Swarup)
People navigate their way through a flooded street following heavy rainfall in New Delhi, India, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (AP/Manish Swarup)

Thirty-eight Israelis are still out of contact with authorities in India following devastating flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains that have killed dozens of people in the country’s north, the Foreign Ministry announced Friday.

There are currently no indications that any Israelis have been hurt in the floods, which have killed over 100 people. Torrential rain has also closed schools, submerged roads and swept away houses and bridges.

Israeli authorities have said that difficulties in establishing contact with the missing comes primarily from damaged communications infrastructure and lack of reception.

According to a statement, the Israeli ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, convened a meeting Friday with representatives from the Israeli rescue companies Magnus and Magen, and the Department for Israelis Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the status of rescue operations ahead of a forecast for further heavy rains.

The focus was on the status of Israeli tourists in the Parvati Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh, the northernmost state in the country. In a joint operation with the rescue companies, representatives were sent to all settlements in the valley, including the most remote ones: Kheerganga, Pulga and Tosh.

The Foreign Ministry added that there is a group of 20 Israeli tourists who chose to remain in the village of Pulga and others who chose to evacuate independently. Meanwhile, a helicopter evacuation took place from the village of Kaza.

People wade through a flooded street after river Yamuna overflowed following heavy monsoon rains in New Delhi on July 13, 2023. (Photo by Arun Sankar / AFP)

At least 88 people have died, 42 of them in the past five days, and more than 100 were injured in Himachal Pradesh where cars, buses, bridges and houses were swept away by swirling flood waters, a state government statement said. The region is nearly 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of New Delhi.

Twelve other people have died of rain-related incidents since Wednesday in Uttar Pradesh state, said Shishir Singh, a state government spokesman.

Nine of them drowned, two died after being struck by lightning and one was killed by a snake bite, Singh said.

One person died in New Delhi and four were killed in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir, officials said.

Authorities used helicopters to rescue nearly 300 people, mostly tourists, who were stranded in the Chandertal area in Himachal Pradesh state since Saturday. They included seven sick people who were airlifted on Tuesday, the government said.

Nearly 170 houses have collapsed and another 600 were partially damaged by heavy rains and landslides in the state, the state emergency operation center said.

India’s weather agency has forecast more heavy rains in the north in the coming days. It said monsoon rains across the country have already brought about 2 percent more rainfall than normal.

People living along the banks of the river Yamuna sit on a flooded underpass following heavy rainfall in New Delhi, India, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (AP/Manish Swarup)

India regularly witnesses severe floods during the monsoon season, which runs between June and September and brings most of South Asia’s annual rainfall. The rains are crucial for rainfed crops planted during the season but often cause extensive damage.

Scientists say monsoons are becoming more erratic due to climate change, leading to frequent landslides and flash flooding in India’s Himalayan north.

AP contributed to this report.

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