Flash floods following heavy rain in the past 24 hours have claimed 15 lives in Uttar Pradesh with Saharanpur district bearing the brunt of the deluge.

All the casualties have been reported from Saharanpur city and adjoining areas. Massive rescue and relief operations have been launched in Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor in the west.

Several marooned persons have been airlifted from Saharanpur city. IG (Law and Order) R.K. Vishwakarma said that among the 15 casualties were those killed in incidents of house collapse. About 45 persons were still stranded there, he said. Among those killed in the flash floods was a chief medical officer of Punjab whose car was washed away, he added. The situation was particularly serious in Shakumbhari, bordering Uttarakhand. The Purkazi-Laksar road in Bijnor district has been closed to traffic as it is five feet under water. Relief operations have also been launched in Bhopa on Muzaffarnagar-Bijnor road and Nakud in Saharanpur.

The IG said flood relief companies have been moved to the affected areas from Hapur and Agra. Water released in the Hathni Kund barrage has created a critical situation in western Uttar Pradesh. A similar situation prevailed in Lakhimpur Kheri district after about two lakh cusecs water was released in the Banbasa barrage. The possibility of several villages being marooned in Kheri and Bahraich districts in the next 24 hours has not been ruled out.

As several parts of the State have received moderate to heavy rainfall, people living along the Ganga, Yamuna, Ghagra, Rapti and Sharda rivers have been asked to shift elsewhere.