Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

More bodies found after landslide

Local people watch a truck which was overturned by a landslide in Mankha village, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Katmandu, Nepal (AP)
Local people watch a truck which was overturned by a landslide in Mankha village, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Katmandu, Nepal (AP)
Relatives of a victim of a landslide at the site in Mankha village, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Katmandu, Nepal (AP)
Indian rescuers move villagers living along the Kosi River to safer places in Bihar state, India (AP Photo/Aftab Alam Siddiqui)

Rescuers have recovered nine more bodies after a massive landslide in northern Nepal, raising the official death toll in the disaster to 19.

However, more than 150 people are still thought to be buried under the rubble and officials said there is no hope of finding anyone alive.

Police and army rescuers helped by villagers resumed their search for victims through piles of rock, mud and upturned trees today, two days after the landslide crushed dozens of houses in the village of Mankha, about 75 miles (120km) east of Katmandu, Nepal's capital.

The bodies of six women and three children were recovered this afternoon, said Nepal's Department of Natural Disaster Management.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring India, authorities evacuated tens of thousands of villagers, fearing that floodwater from Nepal could reach there.

Gopal Parajuli, the chief government administrator in the area where the landslide hit, said rescuers were using bulldozers and excavators to dig through the debris in some areas. They were also trying to carve out temporary roads to reach people stranded on the other side of Arniko highway, a route that connects Katmandu with northern districts and the border with China.

The landslide blocked a mountain river, causing it to back up and form a lake that was threatening to burst and sweep away several villages, although Mr Parajuli said the water level was slowly falling.

Officials have, however, ruled out finding anyone alive.

"We have no chance of finding any of the missing people alive under this pile of debris," Yadav Prasad Koirala, who heads the government's Department of Natural Disaster Management, said yesterday. "We have the names of 159 people who are believed to be missing and buried, but there could be even more people."

Controlled explosions by Nepal's army on Saturday managed to knock down part of an earth wall that had blocked a river and created a temporary dam, allowing some water to flow out, but much of it still remained trapped, posing a threat to downstream villages as far away as India.

In India's Bihar state, authorities evacuated tens of thousands of villagers after flood warnings were issued in eight districts. Indian soldiers, as well as air force helicopters and jets, were being readied to launch relief and rescue operations, said Anirudh Kumar, a top official in Patna, Bihar's capital.

The local government also invoked a law that would allow authorities to forcibly evacuate villagers who refused to leave their homes and property and move to higher ground or to government-run relief camps. The government has set up 120 such camps.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed right now. We don't know the quantum of water that will come down" on Indian villages as a result of the controlled blasts on the Nepali side of the border, Mr Kumar said.

More than 125,000 people, most of them poor farmers, live in the most vulnerable part of Bihar state, he said. The eight districts where flood warnings have been issued are home to more than one million people.

Separately, another landslide swept three houses in a village in eastern Nepal today, killing four people and leaving six others missing.

Landslides are common in mostly mountainous Nepal and in many parts of India during the rainy season, which runs from June through September.

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