This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
|Cllr Manjula Sood, Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths|
Pilgrims feared to be caught up in Indian floods
by Peter Warzynski
Religious leaders fear families from Leicestershire could be trapped by floods in the Indian city of Haridwar.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the pilgrimage destination in northern India, following heavy monsoon rains.
Landslides and flash floods caused by the River Ganges bursting its banks have washed away at least 500 people, according to the latest reports.
The charity Action Aid said thousands of people were missing.
Many of those unaccounted for are pilgrims visiting Hindu shrines and temples.
Leicester organisation the Gujarati Hindu Association said it feared local pilgrims could be among the missing.
Spokesman Hemendra Mistry said: "This is an important pilgrimage site.
"We have heard of three tour groups from Leicester which had gone to the region on pilgrimage.
"We're trying to find out whether they were in the area at the time of the flooding.
"We are trying to gauge exactly who's been affected, but it's too early to say how many local families are involved."
The Indian government has launched a huge rescue operation.
However, the Indian Army has not yet been able to reach some of the more remote parts of the mountainous terrain.
Indian officials said that more than 33,000 pilgrims were still missing as of yesterday.
Maganbhai Patel, president of the Gujarati Hindu Association, said: "I've heard that a lot of people have been washed away and temples have been washed away, too.
"The area is devastated and it will take a long time before anything is back to normal.
"My heart goes out to the friends and families of those involved and of course they will be in our thoughts and prayers."
A Hindu temple in Leicester has organised an event to pray for the victims of the disaster.
Hundreds of people are expected to visit Shree Sanatan Mandir, in Weymouth Street, tomorrow to take part in the vigil.
Temple president Ramanbhai Barber said: "A lot of people from Leicester go to that area at this time of year because it's a very popular pilgrimage site.
"I was there last year and when I saw the recent pictures of the flood on television, I thought 'oh wow, there may be people I know there'.
"I've got a lot of friends who wanted to go and I'm not sure who is there and who isn't, but they're in my prayers that they're safe."
Manjula Sood, chairman of Leicester Council of Faiths, said: "I will be at the temple on Sunday to pray for those affected.
"It's very difficult to hear about everything that's going on, especially when we have such a strong connection to the area.
"It's a very holy place for Hindus. People even travel there to scatter the ashes of their family when they die.
"We're here for the people going though a difficult time and showing solidarity."
The flooding has been caused by some of the heaviest rains recorded in Uttarakhand in 60 years.
Scores of homes, hotels and bridges have been destroyed.