Twenty people died in the crash of a helicopter performing rescue work in the zone in northern India affected by heavy flooding, the IANS news agency said Wednesday.

Initially, the Indian air force reported that eight people had died in the crash on Tuesday, but the assistant director for the National Disaster Management Authority, M. Shashidhar Reddy, subsequently raised the number of fatalities to 20.

A member of the air force acknowledged to IANS that when search operations for victims of the accident were suspended 11 bodies had been found.

Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the accident.

The helicopter, a Russian-made Mi-17, went down Tuesday as it was returning from the city of Kedarnath, the epicenter of the flooding that so far has taken at least 882 lives in the state of Uttarakhand.

Indian authorities have deployed 45 military aircraft and some 10,000 troops to take over rescue activities in their biggest operation to date.

So far, 90,000 people have been rescued, although calculations are that some 3,500 remain isolated and the whereabouts of another 2,000 people are unknown.

Flooding is frequent during India's monsoon season, although the rains came much earlier and have been much more intense in the northern part of the country this year than in the recent past.

The country is enormously dependent on monsoon rainfall to provide enough water for agriculture, a sector that directly or indirectly employs two-thirds of India's working population. EFE