New Delhi: A total of 556 bodies have been recovered in flood-hit Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said, adding that hundreds may have died in the terrible tragedy.
"(A total of) 556 bodies have been recovered and there are reports that more could be buried under the debris," Bahuguna told CNN-IBN news channel.
"This kind of disaster has never happened in the Himalayan history."
He said it would "take a long time to rebuild Uttarakhand" and that no pilgrimage to Kedarnath -- the worst hit place -- would be possible "for at least the next two years".
A weekend cloudburst in the Kedarnath region, home to one of the holiest Hindu shrines, and subsequent flooding in the hills have caused unprecedented destruction in Uttarakhand.
Until now, the officially admitted death toll was 200-plus. But officials and rescuers have warned that this could run into hundreds if not thousands.
Bahuguna admitted that Uttarakhand did not meet the norms of national disaster management, but said his administration was never warned about a cloudburst that ravaged Kedarnath.
The chief minister said about 30,000 people had been evacuated till now from the hills and other places and that there was no danger to those who were still stuck in certain areas.
"It's very tragic that so many people have died in this calamity... It will take another 15 days to complete evacuation."
He said that evacuation of the stranded by the military and other security forces was taking time because roads had been badly damaged.
Bahuguna said the Uttarakhand government was very close to putting up a doppler radar to predict weather "but there were certain concerns by various ministries".
He added: "No authority or body could have handled the calamity of this scale and magnitude."