Al­most 70 dead in mon­soon dis­as­ters across Nepal, In­dia

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Mon­soon floods and land­slides have killed at least 66 peo­ple across Nepal and In­dia but of­fi­cials fear that fig­ure could al­most dou­ble as res­cuers search for dozens be­lieved lost un­der mud and in sub­merged vil­lages. Au­thor­i­ties yes­ter­day up­graded the death toll from flash flood­ing across land­locked Nepal to 49 as the wa­ter kept ris­ing, forc­ing thou­sands to flee for higher ground. “An­other 17 are miss­ing. Search and res­cue works are un­der­way but the wa­ter lev­els have not de­clined yet,” said Shankar Hari Acharya, the chief of Nepal’s na­tional emer­gency cen­tre.

The Red Cross es­ti­mated a higher death toll of 53, with dozens more miss­ing and in­jured and thou­sands of homes de­stroyed. In neigh­bor­ing In­dia, res­cuers were des­per­ately try­ing to reach two packed buses swept into a gorge by a land­slide so pow­er­ful it de­stroyed an en­tire stretch of high­way. The coaches had stopped for a tea break around mid­night Satur­day in Hi­machal Pradesh when tons of rock and mud cas­caded down a moun­tain­side.

Seven­teen bod­ies have been re­cov­ered from the ac­ci­dent site in the Hi­malayan state, said San­deep Kadam, a se­nior of­fi­cial at the scene. But dozens were still miss­ing some­where at the bottom of the ravine, with sol­diers and res­cuers claw­ing through the mud and rock to reach them. “Around 200 me­ters of na­tional high­way washed away with two buses and more than 50 feared buried,” said In­dian army spokesman Colonel Aman Anand, who was help­ing co­or­di­nate res­cue ef­forts.

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ex­tended his con­do­lences and prayers for those af­fected by the ac­ci­dent. “Pained by the loss of lives due to land­slide-re­lated ac­ci­dents in HP’s Mandi district,” he posted on Twit­ter, us­ing the acro­nym for Hi­machal Pradesh state. The dis­as­ter fol­lowed days of heavy rain, which loosens the soil on steep hill­sides and threat­ens vil­lages at the foot of moun­tains ev­ery mon­soon season.

Hun­dreds have died across In­dia in tor­ren­tial rain, floods and land­slides since the on­set of the wet season in April. In Nepal the toll from this year’s mon­soon — which typ­i­cally lasts from late June un­til the end of Au­gust — has al­ready eclipsed last year, with more than 100 peo­ple con­firmed dead. Last week­end in the cen­tral low­lands, four girls from the same fam­ily drowned when they fell into a flooded road­side ditch.

Nepal’s weather depart­ment warned that heavy rain was ex­pected to con­tinue for an­other day, fol­low­ing days of tor­ren­tial down­pours. “There isn’t a house with­out wa­ter,” said Raghu Ram Me­hta, a res­i­dent of the southern district of Sun­sari which has suf­fered nine deaths, the highest of any district. “Hun­dreds of fam­i­lies are tak­ing shel­ter in lo­cal schools.”

Footage aired on Nepali TV showed vil­lagers wad­ing through waist-high wa­ter with their be­long­ings and us­ing boats to reach higher ground. Fam­i­lies perched on trees with young chil­dren overnight as flood wa­ters swept away homes in a vil­lage in the southern district of Chit­wan, lo­cal me­dia re­ported. In the pop­u­lar jun­gle safari re­sort of Sau­raha in Chit­wan, ho­tels were forced to shift their guests to higher floors as wa­ter rushed in. A ho­tel owner said they used ele­phants to trans­port tourist high­way and air­port to help them re­turn to the cap­i­tal Kath­mandu. Biratnagar air­port in the east­ern district of Mo­rang was closed after be­ing sub­merged in a me­tre of wa­ter, au­thor­i­ties at the in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal said.

— AFP

JANAKPUR: Pas­sen­gers walk through the flooded Janakpur air­port yes­ter­day.

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