Lucknow: Three weeks after heavy rains and subsequent flash floods killed hundreds and left several thousand missing in Uttarakhand, bodies are being fished out of rivers in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh.

The death toll in the heavy rain and flash floods of June 15 to 17, which ravaged Uttarakhand, triggering landslides and washing away pilgrims and mules and other cattle into the rivers is still not accurately estimated.

In the past fortnight, more than 80 bodies have been recovered from different districts of Uttar Pradesh. Officials fear that more bodies might have been washed away in the strong currents, as the rivers are still flooded.  

In the last two days, as it rained heavily again, over a dozen bodies flowed down the rivers into Uttar Pradesh. Police officials said that bodies were recovered at Allahabad, Meerut, Bijnor, Moradabad, Narora and Muzaffarnagar.

"Most of the bodies are in bad shape, eaten up by aquatic animals and barely recognizable," a senior official said, adding that traces of clothing that might still have stuck to the bodies are the only means of identifying the gender, as the bodies themselves are mostly beyond recognition.

Uttar Pradesh Police, who posted a special unit in Uttarakhand at the peak of the disaster, have so far recovered 30 bodies from Haridwar and adjoining areas, of which, 29 were cremated after preserving DNA samples in the form of hair, teeth and bone pieces.

"We are preserving the DNA, but we do not know what to do with it. We are waiting for guidelines from the higher authorities," said a doctor at Haridwar District Hospital.

Some clothes and accessories like wrist watches and wallets have been recovered. Job identity cards have also come floating down the river, said a member of the Seva Samiti in Haridwar, who had aided the police in its effort to retrieve bodies from Ganga.

"Some of the bodies recovered here (at Haridwar) were not in very bad condition and we have taken photographs and stored personal belongings, just in case, someone turns up later to claim them," said a policeman who regretted that bodies which went further downstream were in even worse condition.

Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) RK Vishwakarma conceded that the task was mammoth and said that bodies were recovered from Pilibhit, Bulandshahr, Baghpat, Sambhal and Hapur as well.

"Most of the rivers in western Uttar Pradesh flow into the state from Uttarakhand and are carrying a large number of bodies," he said, adding that police are maintaining a vigil near the river and the floating bodies are being retrieved.

"At the district level, we have neither the space nor the know-how to preserve such a large number of bodies, and we cannot help but dispose them of after keeping DNA samples," an official posted in a western UP district said. From Meja Manda, Jhoosi and Saidabad areas of Allahabad, 17 bodies have so far been recovered. Thirteen bodies were found in Ganga near Narora barrage, Anoopshahr and Garh Mukteshwar in the outskirts of Ghaziabad.

The police fear that once the rivers recede, even more bodies may be found lying strewn in the silt. The Uttarakhand government Sunday put the number of those still missing at 4,700.

(Agencies)

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