Nepal landslide toll climbs to 23, scores still missing
KATMANDU - The Associated Press
In this photograph released by the Nepalese Army on August 2 Nepalese residents stand near damaged houses after flooding near the scene of a landslide near the Sunkoshi River northeast of Kathmandu. AFP Photo / Nepal ArmyRescuers on Monday discovered 14 more bodies buried under tonnes of mud and trees following a massive landslide in northeast Nepal that is feared to have killed at least 150 people.
Twenty-three victims, including six children, have so far been pulled from the landslide which smashed onto hamlets along a river in Sindhupalchok district before dawn on Saturday following heavy monsoon rains, an official said.
"The death toll has now reached 23, that includes 13 women, two men, six children and two bodies we have not been able to identify," regional police chief Subodh Ghimire told AFP.
More than 100 police and soldiers, using bulldozers and excavators, were digging through mud and rocks to recover the bodies of around 130 residents of the hamlets, who remain crushed underneath.
"We expect to find many more bodies today as we continue our search of the affected area," said Ghimire from badly-hit Jure village.
Traumatised villagers kept up their anxious vigil at the landslide site, about 120 kilometres northeast of Kathmandu, in the hope their loved ones would be discovered by rescuers.
Kalu Tamang, a 41-year-old cook who lost eight members of his family, including his wife, mother and four children, said he was desperate "to see their faces one last time".
"I want to carry out the last rites for my family members, I am waiting for their bodies," Tamang told AFP.
As the grim search continued, India stepped up evacuation of thousands of residents from its eastern state of Bihar, amid fears the landslide would unleash flash floods downstream across the border, inundating villages.
Nepalese workers have been attempting to blast holes in landslide debris which has dammed the Sunkoshi river and created a large lake. The river runs downstream and across the border into India's Bihar as the Kosi river.
"We have evacuated more than 65,000 people but more than this number will have to be evacuated soon," Bihar disaster management official Anirudh Kumar told AFP.
"Evacuation of people is still on and the figure will go up by Monday evening," he added.
The Kosi river burst its banks in 2008 and shifted away from its normal course, engulfing swathes of Bihar and killing hundreds of people.
Scores of people die every year from flooding and landslides during Nepal's monsoon season.
Nepal's landslide came as 150 people were feared dead in India following a landslide which destroyed a village in western Maharashtra state on Wednesday. Ninety-two bodies have so far been recovered.