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123 missing presumed dead in Nepal landslide
Publication Date : 07-08-2014
The 123 people missing in Saturday’s massive landslide in Sindhupalchok are now considered dead and the search operation has been stopped after Wednesday.
The missing, however, cannot be officially declared dead yet, said the home ministry. The law allows the disappeared to be certified dead only after 12 years from the time of the disappearance.
“The search and rescue team will now focus solely on draining the artificial lake formed by the landslide dam,” said Yadav Prasad Koirala, joint-secretary at the ministry.
The team had recovered 33 bodies from the debris before the search was halted. Koirala said that it has become impossible and even dangerous for the team to look for bodies.
“The families of those presumed dead have begun receiving 40,000 Nepalese rupees (US$406.30) per dead,” said chief district officer of Sindhupalchok Gopal Parajuli.
A Nepal Army team has been trying to drain the lake for the last five days. But its plan to explode a section of the dam to widen the channel created on Saturday failed for the second consecutive day.
According to the Army, the water has been flowing into the lake at the rate of 190 cubic feet per second and is flowing out at 210 cusec.
A reading on Wednesday showed that the water level of the dammed lake has been reduced by 51 cm, said Jagdish Chandra Pokharel, NA spokesperson.
The Army and disaster experts, however, are unsure what the reduction means in terms of a possible outburst.
No one has information on the exact depth and volume of the lake and the strength of the dam.
“To the naked eye, the volume of water on the lake seems constant,” said Dhruba Devkota, a humanitarian programme coordinator at Save the Children, an international organisation, involved in providing immediate relief to the victims. Devkota was on the site of the disaster on Wednesday.
“The dam looks strong,” he said. “But there is a new danger to upstream localities from back flooding because we can see the landmass on the hill splitting again. Another landslide could occur at the same site.”
According to the ministry, the last three months alone have seen landslides and flood affect ten districts, including Sindhupalchok.
The combined death toll from these tragedies is 73, with 42 injured and 123 presumed dead. Excluding the incidents at Sindhupalchok and Sankhuwasabha, where a landslide killed seven people on Monday, the disasters have damaged properties worth 104.6 million Nepalese rupees ($1.06 million).