Toll rises to 10, over 150 still missing

  • Risk of downstream flooding reduced: Nepal Army
- Weena Pun, Kathmandu

Aug 3, 2014-

Rescuers have pulled out two more bodies from the site of the massive landslide that blocked Sunkoshi River at Mankha VDC in Sidhupalchok on Saturday, taking the death toll to 10, with around 155 feared missing, the Home Ministry said on Sunday.

With one more sluice created on the landslide dam, in addition to the two formed on Saturday, the risk of upstream and downstream flooding has been reduced but not completely averted, said Nepal Army spokesperson Jagadish Chandra Pokharel.

On Saturday, an NA team had launched two controlled explosions on the dam to ease the flow of the clogged river.

“With three channels of drainage, obstructed water is now being drained at the rate of three inches per hour,” said Ganesh KC, spokesperson for the Nepali Police.

But with the lake outburst still a possibility, thousands of residents along the river in districts such as Kavre, Sindhupalchok, Ramechhap, Sindhuli and Saptari continued to flee to higher grounds for shelter on Sunday. Police have also started patrolling affected villages downstream, including Khurkot in Sindhuli, to prevent people from returning to their houses to retrieve their belongings.

“The land and the rocks are still sliding. We are worried about the outburst. It will invite another disaster,” said 76-year-old Makar Dhwoj Khatri, a resident of Teknapur VDC that borders Mankha in Sindhupalchok. Villages in Mankha, Teknapur, Ramche and Dhuskun are the most affected by the landslide.

Geologist and disaster expert Ranjan Kumar Dahal, who accompanied Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam to the landslide-dammed lake on Sunday, said that if the conditions remained the same, it would take another 3-4 days to drain the lake. “If we manage the flow of water-draining not too much and not too slowly-there is no danger of flooding,” said Dahal.

Dahal estimates the dam to be around 45-metre high and the lake 25-metre deep. Until the lake is completely drained and the debris from the landslide cleared, Araniko Highway will remain closed, he said.

Meanwhile, Simrik Air has begun airlifting tourists trapped at Tatopani on Nepal-China border to Dhulikhel in Kavre. Around 400 tourists from India, Japan, Russia and a few European countries were on their way back from Mansarovar in China.

According to Biswas Adhikari of Simrik Air, 300 of them have already been lifted to Dhulikhel and the rest will be rescued by Monday.

“The government’s apathy towards the stranded tourists has deeply saddened them and people like us who are in this sector,” said Adhikari.

Although the government scrambles to search and rescue victims and to provide immediate relief to those at camps, locals at Sindhupalchok are disheartened by its slow pace.

On Sunday, as Home Minister Gautam, Chief District Officer Gopal Parajuli and UML leader Amrit Bohara made the trip to the landslide dam, Tekanpur locals waved a black cloth in protest.

“We could not go to every village because the paths are obstructed. But we will try to provide Rs 40,000 each to the family of the deceased,” said Parajuli.

Yadav Prasad Koirala, joint-secretary at the Home Ministry, however, said that monetary compensation and rehabilitation was not the government’s priority at the moment. “Let’s first search and rescue the victims and look after those at shelter camps. We will think about monetary compensation, rehabilitation and reconstruction later,” said Koirala.

Prevention of such massive landslides will also be thought about later, said Pradip Koirala, under-secretary at the Ministry. The private sector, on the other hand, has set up a relief fund. According to Madhav Nepal, general secretary of Press Chautari, Sindhupalchowk Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nepal Himalaya Trans-Border Commerce, and Nepal

Truck and Container Entrepreneurs’ Association have already collected Rs 4 million. “The target is Rs 10 million,” said Nepal.

In Sunsari, all the 56 sluice gates of the Koshi barrage have been opened to lessen the devastation any outburst of the landslide-dammed lake could cause. This prompted the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Bihar, Jitanram Majhi, to monitor the dam located 9 km inland on the Indian border.   

With inputs from Rishi Ram Poudel, Rajendra Manandhar and Rishiram Poudel

Published: 04-08-2014 09:12

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