Flood Risk for Hundreds of Thousands in India After Nepal Landslide

Aug 5th, 2014 | By | Category: Disaster and Emergency, Disasters and Climate Change, Flood, News

5644768-3x2-700x467AFP: The Indian government says more than 400,000 people in the east of the country are at risk of flooding after a landslide that killed at least nine people in neighbouring Nepal.

The landslide, triggered by heavy rains, has left scores of people missing and has created a mud damn blocking the Sunkoshi River which runs into India’s Bihar state as the Kosi River.

A flood alert has been issued as the Indian government begins evacuating thousands of people from the area.

The fear is that as Nepal tries to blast its way through the landslide to clear it, it will unleash a torrent of water across densely populated Bihar.

Ashok Kumar, an officer at the state’s disaster management unit, says around 425,000 people could be affected by the floods and authorities have so far evacuated 44,000 people across seven districts in Bihar.

“We are shifting people from the area where the water is expected to reach,” Mr Kumar said.

He says 117 relief camps have been set up in the region so far.

Deputy inspector general at the National Disaster Response Force, S.S. Guleria, says in some place authorities have had to force people to leave their homes.

“Many are unwilling to leave their homes, but we are trying to evacuate them by force, keeping in view the impending troubles,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Kathmandu to speed up negotiations on a power trade pact, has expressed concern over the situation in Bihar and says all possible assistance should be made available.

The home ministry said in a statement that while the amount of water that had flowed downstream so far was not alarming, the flow could increase suddenly at any time.

Indian government officials said on Saturday that water levels were already above the danger mark.

Running out of hope in search for survivors

A spokesman for Nepal police Ganesh K.C. says 150 people are still missing after the landslide that struck Sindhupalchowk district early Saturday.

Around 40 people have been rescued, but chances of finding more survivors are fading.

Gopal Prasad Parajuli, governor of the Sindhupalchowk district, says further small earth slips have been recorded since the massive landslide, hampering rescue and search operations.

On Sunday, army technicians were preparing to set off another controlled blast to drain more water from the mud damn on Sunday. They carried out two such blasts on Saturday.

“We are very cautiously and slowly doing that, to avoid sudden and big flow of water,” army spokesman Jagadish Pokharel said.

The Kosi river has been problematic for both India and Nepal since it broke its banks in 2008.

As a result, the river changed its course, submerging swathes of land, affecting more than 2 million people in Bihar and killing more than 500.

Monsoon rains are crucial for farm-dependent India and Nepal, but scores of people die every year in landslides and floods caused by heavy downpours.

Heavy rains in June last year inundated towns and villages and killed thousands in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and dozens more in the neighbouring district of Darchula in west Nepal.



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