Rescuers have recovered two more bodies from a massive weekend landslide in northern Nepal, raising the official death toll in the disaster to 10, but say there is no chance of finding alive any of the more than 150 people believed still buried under the rubble.
Police and army rescuers helped by villagers resumed their search for victims through piles of rock, mud and upturned trees on Monday, two days after the landslide crushed dozens of houses in the village of Mankha, about 120km east of Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring India, authorities evacuated tens of thousands of villagers, fearing that floodwaters from Nepal could reach there.
Gopal Parajuli, the chief government administrator in the area where the landslide hit, said rescuers recovered two more bodies late on Sunday, and were using bulldozers and excavators to dig through the debris in some areas. They were also trying to carve out temporary roads to reach people stranded on the other side of Arniko highway, a route that connects Kathmandu with northern districts and the border with China.
The landslide blocked a mountain river, causing it to back up and form a lake that was threatening to burst and sweep away several villages, although Parajuli said the water level was slowly falling.
Officials have, however, ruled out finding anyone alive.
“We have no chance of finding any of the missing people alive under this pile of debris,” Yadav Prasad Koirala, who heads the government's Department of Natural Disaster Management, said on Sunday. “We have the names of 159 people who are believed to be missing and buried, but there could be even more people.”
Controlled explosions by Nepal's army on Saturday managed to knock down part of an earth wall that had blocked a river and created a temporary dam, allowing some water to flow out, but much of it still remained trapped, posing a threat to downstream villages as far away as India.
In India's Bihar state, authorities evacuated tens of thousands of villagers after flood warnings were issued in eight districts. Indian soldiers, as well as air force helicopters and jets, were being readied to launch relief and rescue operations, said Anirudh Kumar, a top official in Patna, Bihar's capital.
The local government also invoked a law that would allow authorities to forcibly evacuate villagers who refused to leave their homes and property and move to higher ground or to government-run relief camps. The government has set up 120 such camps.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed right now. We don't know the quantum of water that will come down” on Indian villages as a result of the controlled blasts on the Nepali side of the border, Kumar said.
More than 125 000 people, most of them poor farmers, live in the most vulnerable part of Bihar state, he said. The eight districts where flood warnings have been issued are home to more than a million people.
Landslides are common in mostly mountainous Nepal and in many parts of India during the rainy season, which runs from June through September. - Sapa-AP