A massive landslide in Sindhupalchowk district on Saturday wiped out an entire village killing people and blocking the Sunkoshi river to create a large lake with possibility of flash floods threatening districts and bordering Bihar.
So far eight bodies have been recovered and at least hundreds injured. Seven persons have been flown to Kathmandu for treatment, Home Ministry Spokesperson Laxmi Dhakal said. The number of those missing in the tragedy is said to be over 150.
Some 80-100 houses in the affected settlements are said to be wiped out, according to Home Ministry. A Nepali Congress MP from the district, Mohan Bahadur Basnet, speaking from the site of the blocked river, claimed the death toll could be “in hundreds”. He was speaking to Kantipur TV.
The Sunkoshi hydropower project plant was shut down. Initial report said that water had entered the plant site.
The Nepal cabinet held an emergency meeting and directed the district authorities of Sunsari, which borders Bihar, to open all the 56 gates of the Koshi Barrage so that massive water flow on the Sunkoshi, a tributary of Saptakoshi river, would not damage the barrage and neighbouring areas. However, this increases the risk of flood and destruction in Bihar.
The Nepal government also requested India and China (whose borders touch Sindhupalchowk district) to help control the flow of water on Sunkoshi and Saptakoshi rivers.
The landslide occurred around 2.30 a.m. Saturday. The entire settlement of Jure near Mankha village, some 80 km from capital Kathmandu, collapsed and fell into the Sunkoshi, piling boulders and mud. It has created a temporary lake at the site.
People living in the districts through which the Saptakoshi flows, are on high risk. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has ordered evacuation of those at risk. Hundreds of people living along the river have left their homes and taken shelter in higher places, several local reports said.
According to government news agency, RSS, district administrations in Sunsari, Saptari and Udayapur are on high alert for any eventuality.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Nepal Army soldiers made two controlled blasts to clear the blockage on the river, Nepal’s Home Ministry said a in a statement. The water level on Sunkoshi, though still, high, has eased somewhat, officials from Natural Disaster Relief Committee said.
The government has launched a massive search and rescue operation, with hundreds of security personnel involved in the exercise. Death and destruction by landslides and flash floods is very common in Nepal during the monsoons.