Death toll in Nepal flash flood rises to 14By Phanindra Dahal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
KATHMANDU—Rescuers scoured Nepal’s central Annapurna region on Sunday for survivors of flash flooding that sent a wall of water smashing through riverside communities as the death toll rose to 14.
The Seti burst its banks near the city of Pokhara, a popular tourist hub, on Saturday, sweeping away an entire village, and swamping families enjoying picnics on the river banks.
Officials said dozens of people were still missing, and that among the dead were three Ukrainian tourists who had originally been described by rescuers as Russian.
One witness, named as Uddha Bahadur Gurung, described how the river had suddenly swollen with water and turned into a lethal surge.
“There was nothing unusual. People were enjoying picnics, some were relaxing in the hot spring pools by the river and others working,” he told the Kathmandu Post.
“Out of nowhere came this swelling dark murky water with debris, sweeping away many people.”
Rajendra Singh Bhandari, the regional police chief, said that rescuers found an additional dead body on Sunday, taking the death toll to 14.
“We have learned that the three foreigners who have gone missing were Ukrainian citizens of Russian origin,” he told AFP.
“The prime minister, the chief of the Maoist party and the home minister are now at the worst affected areas.
“They are scheduled to visit Kharapani village which was washed away by the flood,” he said. “The flood is now under control as the water level has come down at the river.”
A landslide caused by days of heavy rain had blocked the Seti near its source in the snow fields and glaciers of the Himalayas, said army spokesman Ramindra Chhetri.
“Then there was a powerful outburst, which resulted in a flash flood in the Seti river that entered human settlements and created havoc,” he told AFP, adding some houses were covered with mud up to 12 feet (3.5 meters) deep.
“We have mobilized a company, an engineer platoon and soldiers from specialized troops for search-and-rescue operations,” he said. “Rescuers have recovered 14 dead bodies but still dozens are thought to be missing.”
The 8,091-meter (26,545-foot) Mount Annapurna attracts thousands of trekkers, both local and foreign, each year as well as day-trippers who enjoy picnics on the banks of the Seti river.
The mountain is considered both technically difficult and avalanche-prone and has a much higher death rate among climbers than Everest, the world’s highest peak.