Rescuers halt search for landslide missing

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iol pic wld Nepal Flooding~13 AP Nepalese rescuers search for bodies of victims of Saturday's landslide as a damaged school bus lies on left, in Mankha, about 120 kilometers east of Katmandu. Picture: Niranjan Shrestha

Kathmandu - Heavy rains in Nepal on Tuesday forced rescuers to halt their search for bodies buried under tons of mud following the deadliest landslide in the country for almost a decade, police said.

Thirty-four bodies, including of seven children, have been pulled from the rubble after a landslide slammed into hamlets along a river in Sindhupalchok district before dawn on Saturday.

Eyewitnesses and officials said at least 130 more people were missing, but bad weather forced workers, who have been using bulldozers and excavators, to temporarily abandon attempts to find them.

“We have not been able to find any bodies today, heavy rain has caused us to stop our search operations,” regional police chief Subodh Ghimire told AFP.

“The rain has made an already difficult job even more challenging,” said Ghimire from badly hit Jure village.

The downpour renewed the threat of flooding of the Sunkoshi river which has been blocked by landslide debris, Ghimire said.

Neighbouring India has evacuated thousands of residents from its eastern state of Bihar, amid fears the landslide would unleash flash floods downstream of the Sunkoshi, inundating villages across the border.

The landslide has created an artificial lake in the Sunkoshi which runs across the border into India's Bihar as the Kosi river.

As the search for bodies in Nepal was halted, local officials said a landslide had also struck Nepal's eastern Sankhuwasabha district, leaving six people dead with four others missing.

The landslide hit the hilly district, which borders Tibet, in the early hours on Monday, crushing three houses, district official Nanda Kishor Tripathi told AFP.

Scores of people die every year from flooding and landslides during Nepal's monsoon season.

According to the home ministry, 39 people died in a landslide in the Kapilvastu district, home to the Buddha's birthplace Lumbini, in July 2005.

Three years earlier, more than 150 people were killed when multiple mudslides struck two villages in the eastern district of Khotang in the deadliest landslide disaster to hit the Himalayan nation.

Saturday's landslide came as rescuers said 143 bodies have now been found in the western Indian state of Maharashtra where a major landslide destroyed a village last week.

At least 150 people are believed to have been killed there after a hill collapsed from heavy rains burying the village. - AFP

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