Friday, 8 August 2014

123 missing presumed dead in Nepal landslide

The 123 people missing in Saturday’s massive landslide in Sindhupalchok are now considered dead and the search operation has been stopped after Wednesday.

The missing, however, cannot be officially declared dead yet, said the home ministry. The law allows the disappeared to be certified dead only after 12 years from the time of the disappearance.

“The search and rescue team will now focus solely on draining the artificial lake formed by the landslide dam,” said Yadav Prasad Koirala, joint-secretary at the ministry. The team had recovered 33 bodies from the debris before the search was halted. Koirala said that it has become impossible and even dangerous for the team to look for bodies.

“The families of those presumed dead have begun receiving 40,000 Nepalese rupees (US$406.30) per dead,” said chief district officer of Sindhupalchok Gopal Parajuli. A Nepal Army team has been trying to drain the lake for the last five days. But its plan to explode a section of the dam to widen the channel created on Saturday failed for the second consecutive day.

According to the Army, the water has been flowing into the lake at the rate of 190 cubic feet per second and is flowing out at 210 cusec. A reading on Wednesday showed that the water level of the dammed lake has been reduced by 51 cm, said Jagdish Chandra Pokharel, NA spokesperson.

The Army and disaster experts, however, are unsure what the reduction means in terms of a possible outburst. No one has information on the exact depth and volume of the lake and the strength of the dam. “To the naked eye, the volume of water on the lake seems constant,” said Dhruba Devkota, a humanitarian programme coordinator at Save the Children, an international organisation, involved in providing immediate relief to the victims. Devkota was on the site of the disaster on Wednesday.

“The dam looks strong,” he said. “But there is a new danger to upstream localities from back flooding because we can see the landmass on the hill splitting again. Another landslide could occur at the same site.” According to the ministry, the last three months alone have seen landslides and flood affect ten districts, including Sindhupalchok.

Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) evaluation report says that 1.9 kilometer long slope of land percehed 1350 meters above the Sunkoshi River.

The administration evacuated nearly 5000 people living across the banks of the Sunkoshi River. They have been shifted to higher grounds. Sindhupalchowk is 120 km (75 miles) east of Kathmandu.

Landslides are common in Nepal during the June-September monsoon season. These landslides and flooding generally claims life dozens of people die every year. According to government records, since 1967, Nepal has experience over 14 large landslides. The landslide of May 2012 killed at least 26 people when it blocked the Seti River in northwestern Nepal.

Some massive floods and landslides have been experienced by the Sunkoshi Valley in 1982, 1987, and 1996.

Friday 08 July 2014


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