At least eight persons were killed on Saturday in a massive landslide that blocked Sunkoshi river in Sindhupalchowk district in Nepal, turning the river into a lake and putting several villages at risk of flash floods.
A huge hill had suddenly collapsed at 2 am, burying two dozen homes before dumping mud and stones into the Sunkoshi river at Mankha village, 75 km northeast of the capital Kathmandu, police spokesperson Ganesh K C said.
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Eight bodies were recovered during a joint rescue operation carried out by army and police with the help of the local people, the official said.
The death toll is expected to rise as several people are feared to have gone missing in the landslide.
The Sunkoshi river was totally blocked and the water was going everywhere in the village including the Araniko Highway that connects Kathmandu with Tibet.
A large pool was formed in the area after the water was blocked. Water level in the river has been increasing.
High alert has been sounded and locals are being evacuated. Sixteen people were rescued from the area. An army chopper has been deployed to intensify the rescue work.
KC said the authorities were trying to conduct a controlled blast to funnel off the water.
The landslide has buried Arniko Highway at Dam Site in Mankha VDC bringing traffic along the highway to a standstill. Locals in Barhabishe, Lamesanghu, Khadichaur, Dolalghat, among other surrounding areas have moved to higher grounds fearing that the blocked river may burst anytime.
However, there is no report of any tourist in the area being hit by the landslide.
“The Joint Tourism Coordination Committee has instructed all the travel agencies and tour operators to inform if any tourist is stranded or is in trouble,” said Ramesh Dhamala, president of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal.
Nepalese government has declared Sunkoshi river area in Sindhupalchowk district as a crisis zone.
The artificial lake formed in the area is estimated to be 2.5 km long with 130 metre depth.
Around 100 houses were submerged in the area. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has directed the security personnel, local administration and Disaster Risk Management Committee of the Home Ministry to coordinate with each other and carry out rescue operation and evacuate locals to a safer place, a statement issued by his secretariat said.