Indian authorities estimated on the weekend that flooding this month in the northern state of Uttarakhand may have taken the lives of more than 1,000 people and said that 3,000 have been cut off from outside contact.

"The tragedy is continuing and there will only be a final figure when rescue work in the zones devastated by the rains is completed," the head of the regional government, Vijay Bahuguna, told reporters.

Bahuguna said that the death toll "could exceed 1,000," although the government currently places the estimated number of fatalities below 600.

"There are many people missing," Uttarakhand Interior Secretary Om Prakash told Efe, adding that the armed forces and rescue teams had been able to evacuate 15,000 people who had been isolated for days to safe zones.

"Currently, there are only about 3,000 people incommunicado in Badrinath. It won't take us long to rescue them," he said.

Bordering on China and Nepal, Uttarakhand is crossed by the Ganges River, which is sacred to the Hindu religion, arises in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains and has many important pilgrimage destinations along its length, a situation ensuring that many of the people affected by flooding there are not local residents.

Flooding is a frequent occurrence during India's monsoon season, although this year the rains have come early and have been more intense than normal in the northern part of the country.

The Asian giant experiences only scanty rainfall across much of its territory during the bulk of the year, and thus the monsoon season is vital for ensuring productivity in agriculture, a sector that directly or indirectly employs two-thirds of India's working class. EFE