Indian army: bad weather hampering rescue efforts

Water gushes down a river as Indian paramilitary soldiers stand near a temporary bridge after it was damaged as stranded pilgrims wait to be evacuated on the other side in Govindghat, India, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Soldiers were working to evacuate tens of thousands of people still stranded Saturday in northern India where nearly 600 people have been killed in monsoon flooding and landslides. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

GAUCHAR, India (AP) — Bad weather was hampering efforts Sunday to evacuate thousands of people stranded in the northern India state of Uttarakhand where nearly 1,000 people have died in monsoon flooding and landslides, army officials said.

The army suspended helicopter flights to rescue people stranded in Uttarakhand after dense fog descended on the Himalayan region. Instead, troops built makeshift bridges and people were being brought to safety by road, Brig. Uma Maheshwar said.

Tens of thousands of people were still stranded in high mountain passes and temple towns in Uttarakhand after torrential rains washed away homes and roads and triggered landslides that cut off communication links with large parts of the state nearly a week ago.

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told reporters late Saturday that the death toll had reached 1,000. The exact number of people who have died in the torrential downpours and flooding of the Ganges River and its tributaries will be known only once rescue efforts end, he said.

More rain was expected in the worst-hit Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts over the next few days, said Anand Sharma of the state's meteorological office.

Tens of thousands of devout Hindus make a pilgrimage to Uttarakhand, visiting four of Hinduism's holiest shrines located in the state during the summer months. Many pilgrims and tourists were caught when the region was hit by early monsoon rain this year.