In June 2013, the North Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, some regions of Western Nepal and their adjoining areas experienced heavy rainfall that triggered devastating floods and landslides. Parts of Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, and some parts of Western Tibet also experienced heavy rainfall. As of 29 June 2013, more than 1,000 people have died with many more missing.
Damage to bridges and roads left over 70,000 pilgrims and tourists trapped in various places, of whom, many were rescued. As of 30 June 2013, about 300 - 400 people are said to be still stranded. The Indian Air Force, the Army and paramilitary troops have evacuated more than 100,000 people from the flood hit area. Although Utarakhand Assembly Speaker, based on various ground reports said that the death toll could cross 10,000, the official death toll in Uttarakhand (by 29 June 2013) was 842.
From 14 to 17 June 2013, Indian state of Uttarakhand and adjoining area received heavy rainfall, which was about 375 percent more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon. This caused the melting of Chorabari Glacier at the height of 3800 metres, and eruption of the Mandakini River which led to heavy floods near Kedar Dome, Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, and acute rainfall in other nearby regions of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Tibet.
The upper Himalayan territories of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are full of forests and snow-covered mountains and thus remain relatively inaccessible. They are home to several major and historic Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage sites besides several tourist spots and trekking trails. Heavy rainfall for four consecutive days as well as melting snow aggravated the floods. Warnings by the India Meteorological Department predicting heavy rains were not given wide publicity beforehand, causing thousands of people to be caught unawares, resulting in huge loss of life and property. In the city of Dehra Dun, capital of Uttarakhand, this was the wettest June day for over five decades.
Landslides, due to the floods, damaged several houses and structures, killing those who were trapped. The heavy rains resulted in large flashfloods and massive landslides. Entire villages and settlements such as Gaurikund and the market town of Ram Bada, a transition point to Kedarnath, have been obliterated, while the market town of Sonprayag suffered heavy damage and loss of lives. Pilgrimage centres in the region, including Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the hallowed Hindu Chardham (four sites) pilgrimage centers, are visited by thousands of devotees, especially after the month of May onwards. Over 70,000 people were stuck in various regions because of damaged or blocked roads. People in other important locations like the Valley of flowers, Roopkund and the Sikh pilgrimage centre Hemkund were stranded for more than three days. National Highway 58, an important artery connecting the region was also washed away near Jyotirmath and in many other places. Because summers have more number of tourists, the number of people impacted is substantial. For more than three days, stranded pilgrims and tourists were without rations or survived on little food. The roads were seriously damaged at more than 450 places, resulting in huge traffic jams, and the floods caused many cars and other vehicles to be washed away. On June 18, more than 12,000 pilgrims were stuck at Badrinath, the popular pilgrimage center located on the banks of the Alaknanda River.
As of 29 June 2013, the official death toll in Uttarakhand, based on the collected bodies of the victims, had crossed 850. Rescuers at the Hindu pilgrimage town of Haridwar on the river Ganga have been reported to have recovered bodies of 40 victims washed down by the flooded rivers as of June 21 2013. Bodies of people washed away in Uttarakhand were found in distant places like Bijor and Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh.
Although the Kedarnath Temple itself had not been damaged, its base was inundated with water, mud and boulders from the landslide, damaging its perimeter. Many hotels, rest houses and shops around the temple in Kedarnath township were destroyed, resulting in several casualties. Most of the destruction at Kedarnath was caused by a sudden rapid melting of ice and snow on the Kedarnath Mountain, 6 km (3.7 mi) from the temple, which flooded the Charbari lake (upstream) and then Kedarnath. Temple was flooded with water resulting in several deaths due to drowning and panic-driven stampede. The Uttarakhand Government announced that due to the extensive damage to the infrastructure, the temple will be temporarily closed to regular pilgrims and tourists for a year or two, but the temple rituals will still be maintained by priests. Even after a week, dead bodies were not lifted from Kedarnath town, resulting in contamination of water in Kedarnath valley and villagers who depend on spring water suffered various types of health problems like fever, diarrhoea. When flood receded, satellite images showed one new stream at Kedarnath town.
The Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Border Security Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Public Works Department and local administrations worked together for quick rescue operations. Several thousand soldiers were deployed for the rescue missions. Activists of political and social organizations are also involved in the rescue and management of relief centres. The national highway and other important roads were closed to regular traffic. Helicopters were used to rescue people, but due to the rough terrain, heavy fog and rainfall, maneuvering them was a challenge. By 21 June 2013, the Army had deployed 10,000 soldiers and 11 helicopters,= the Navy had sent 45 naval divers, and the Air force had deployed 43 aircraft including 36 helicopters. On June 25, one of 3 IAF Mil Mi-17 rescue helicopters returning from Badrinath, carrying 5 Air Force Officers, 9 of the NDRF, and 6 of the ITBP crashed on a mountainous slope near Gauri Kund, killing all on board.. The deceased soldiers were given a ceremonial Guard of honour by Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde at a function organised by the Uttarakhand State Government.
Prime Minister of India undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas and announced 1,000 crore (US$170 million) aid package for disaster relief efforts in the state. Several state governments announced financial assistance, with Uttar Pradesh Government pledging 25 crore (US$4.3 million), the governments of Haryana, Maharashtra and Delhi 10 crore (US$1.7 million) each, the governments of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh 5 crore (US$860,000) each.
The Government of India also cancelled 9 batches, or half the annual batches of the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, a Hindu pilgrimage. The popular Chardham Yatra pilgrimage, covering Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath was cancelled for approximately 2 years to repair damaged roads and infrastructure, according to the Uttarakhand Government.
As on June 23, US Ambassador to India Nancy Jo Powell declared financial help of USD 1,50,000 through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the NGOs working in the area.
Government agencies and priests of Kedarnath temple were planning mass cremation of the hundreds of victims, after one week of tragedy. Local youths from several affected villages near Gangotri helped stranded tourists and pilgrims, by sending messages to their places and by providing food. Rescuers also retrieved approximately 1 crore (US$170,000) and other jewellery from local persons, including some sadhu babas (or religious men), who reportedly collected it from a destroyed building of a Bank and damaged shops.