'No hope' of survivors after massive Nepal landslide, says official

Official says only eight bodies recovered after village was obliterated

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 1:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 2:51am

Officials say there is no chance of finding any of the more than 150 people who were believed to have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Nepal, as rescuers scrabble through piles of rock, mud and trees.

So far, only eight bodies have been found since the landslide early on Saturday blocked a mountain river, causing the water to form a lake that was threatening to burst and sweep away several villages. Further rain yesterday hampered search attempts.

"We have no chance of finding any of the missing people alive under this pile of debris," said Yadav Prasad Koirala, who heads the natural disaster management department. "We have names of 159 people who are believed to be missing and buried, but there could be even more people."

Koirala said it was even difficult for bulldozers and heavy equipment to move the debris that crushed dozens of houses in the village of Mankha, about 120km east of Kathmandu.

Gopal Parajuli, the chief administrator in the area, said the water level and mud was making the rescue work difficult, and that army troops used explosives to try to alleviate a dangerous build-up of water. Controlled explosions removed part of a river blockage and created a temporary dam, allowing some water to flow out, but much of it remained trapped, posing an immediate threat to villages as far away as India, Parajuli said.

He said the water flowing out of the dam and pouring in was almost the same yesterday morning as the previous day, keeping the water level stable.

A Mankha resident who was among the dozens of people injured by the landslide said he feared his entire village had been wiped out. "There are nearly 100 people in the 60 houses in my village and 20 more people in the neighbouring village who were buried by the landslide. All of them are likely to be dead," Durga Lal Shrestha said from his hospital bed in Kathmandu, where he was flown by helicopter.

Shrestha, who suffered bruises on his face and arms, said he and his family heard a rumbling sound and the ground shook like an earthquake.

"The walls in my house caved in, but the roof was fine and that is how we were able to survive," he said. "When we came out, it was dark. Everyone was screaming. It was a chaotic situation."

About 40 people were injured. In all, 11 were flown to Kathmandu for hospital treatment, including a Belgian man.

The Arniko highway, between Nepal and Tibet, remained closed yesterday.

In neighbouring India's Bihar state, authorities evacuated thousands of villagers after warnings were issued in eight districts at risk of flash floods. The Indian army and air force were being readied to launch relief and rescue operations, said Anirudh Prasad, a top official in Patna, Bihar's capital.