South Asia

250 go missing in new mudslide in Nepal

Sita Karka, who suffered fracture in both legs inSaturday's massive earthquake, being brought byhelicopter on Tuesday.  

Helicopters crisscrossed the mountains above a remote district on Tuesday near the epicentre of the weekend earthquake in Nepal that killed more than 4,600 people, ferrying the injured and delivering emergency supplies. Officials said 250 villagers were feared missing in a new mudslide.

Two helicopters brought in eight women from Ranachour village, two of them clutching babies and a third heavily pregnant.

“There are many more injured people in my village,” said Sangita Shrestha, who was pregnant and visibly downcast as she got off the helicopter. She was quickly surrounded by Nepalese soldiers and policemen and ushered into a waiting van to be taken to a hospital.

Staging post

The little town of Gorkha, the district’s administrative and trading centre, is being used as a staging post to get rescuers and supplies to those remote communities after Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake.

Not far from the quake’s epicentre, 250 people were feared missing after a mudslide and avalanche on Tuesday, district official Gautam Rimal said. The village, about a 12-hour walk from the nearest town, is along a popular trekking route, but it was not clear if the missing included trekkers.

Agony

In Gorkha, some women who came off the helicopters on Tuesday were grimacing and crying in pain and unable to walk or speak, in agony three days after being injured in the quake.

Sita Karki winced when soldiers lifted her. Her broken and swollen legs had been tied together with crude wisps of hay twisted into a makeshift splint.

“When the earthquake hit, a wall fell on me and knocked me down,” she said. “My legs are broken.”

After an hour of dark clouds gathering, the wind kicked up in Gorkha and sheets of rain began to pour down. Geoff Pinnock of the U.N.’s World Food Programme was leading a convoy of trucks north toward the worst-affected areas when the rain began to pound, leaving them stuck.

“This rain has caused a landslide that has blocked my trucks. I can maybe get one truck through and take a risk driving on the dirt, but I think we’ll have to hold the materials back to try to get them out tomorrow by helicopter,” he said.

Aid workers who had reached the edges of the epicentre said entire villages were reduced to rubble.

Flattened houses

“In some villages, about 90 per cent of the houses have collapsed. They’re just flattened,” said Rebecca McAteer, an American physician who rushed to the quake zone from the distant Nepal hospital where she works.

And yet, the timing of the earthquake near midday, when most rural people are working on the fields meant most villagers were spared injuries when buildings collapsed, she said.

So far, police say they have 373 confirmed deaths in Gorkha district.

Most of those injured, she added, were young people and the elderly, since most young men long ago left their villages in search of better-paying work.

“The immediate need is getting support to where it’s needed, but there will be a lot of work rebuilding,” said McAteer.

Thomas Meier, an engineer with the International Nepal Fellowship who accompanied McAteer to the devastated villages, said the disaster’s aftermath would stretch long into the future.

Across central Nepal, including in Kathmandu, hundreds of thousands of people are still living in the open without clean water or sanitation.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:45:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/250-go-missing-in-new-mudslide-in-nepal/article7151872.ece

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