TAPLEJUNG, June 12: Massive landslides triggered by incessant rainfall hit six VDCs in western Taplejung district on Wednesday night, leaving 55 people dead as of Thursday evening and scores missing.
The affected VDCs are Khokling, Liwang, Santhakra, Thinglabu, Lingtep and Khamlung. Liwang, where 26 people were killed, the hardest hit in terms of casualties. There were no casualties in Khamlung.
The dead include 9 in Khokling, 12 in Santhakra, 5 in Thinglabu and 3 in Lingtep, apart from the 26 in Liwang, according to locals.
In Liwang, nine members of the same family perished.
However, District Police Office (DPO) Taplejung has confirmed the deaths of 21 locals only, following recovery of the bodies.
"Twenty-one bodies have been recovered so far, and 37 are still missing," said DSP Shanti Raj Koirala.
He informed that the death toll may rise as the search and rescue operation is still underway.
The landslide has placed the human settlements near the Tamor and Mewakhola rivers at risk. The landslide has converted Ramduwali Bazaar into a river bank and swept away nine households from there. They are still out of contact.
The dense human settlement at Dobhan, or the confluence of the two rivers, is vulnerable to landslide, according to the area police office. There are around 100 houses at Dobhan.
"We've already urged the locals to move to safer locations from the riverside areas," said police inspector Devi Prasad Phago.
Meanwhile, Chief District Officer (CDO) Damaru Prasad Niraula informed that the rescue operation has been hampered by bad weather conditions and rainfall.
"Even the trekking routes to the landslide area have been swept away, which has adversely affected the rescue work," he said.
CDO Niraula claimed that security personnel are trying their best to expedite the rescue operation despite the bad weather.
A Nepal Army (NA) rescue team from the capital airlifted 10 injured to the district hospital from Liwang and Lingtep on Thursday morning. Dr Kumud Bhattarai, who is involved in the treatment of the injured, said that the condition of most of the victims admitted to the hospital is critical.
"The patients have sustained serious injuries to the head, legs and other parts of the body," said Dr Bhattarai.
Meanwhile, issuing a press release, NA's Directorate of Public Relations said that helipads are being constructed at the landslide-hit areas to facilitate the rescue operations. For lack of a helipad, a helicopter that had flown there for rescue work was not able to land.
The NA helicopter airlifted three critically-injured locals from the landslide areas to BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan
It rained heavily, stopped for some time, and then continued again incessantly. Thunder and lightning accompanied the rain. We felt scared and we stayed on the alert. All of a sudden, nearby rivers and rivulets became filled with muddy water. Then we learnt about the landslides taking place upstream. Informing all our neighbors, we ran helter-skelter to save our lives. Many of us who managed to run to safety on time have survived. Our village turned into a landslide area in a while.
Two children who didn't know about the landslide died on the spot. Lam Kumari Lamgade was swept away while trying to escape from the village. Even the place we moved to was not safe from landslides, but it was somewhat safer than our village.
Jharendra Thapa, local eyewitness in Khokling.