KATHMANDU: Floods and landslides in Nepal and northern India have killed nearly 200 people and scores more are missing, local authorities said late on Monday.
Nepal has been worst hit, with 105 people confirmed dead after torrential rain triggered landslides and flooding, devastating entire villages in what the country’s prime minister termed a “national tragedy.”
Another 136 people are missing, and authorities are battling to prevent an outbreak of cholera after some survivors showed symptoms of the potentially fatal disease.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala pledged to “expedite the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts” and expressed his sorrow over the deaths.
In neighboring India’s Uttar Pradesh state, flooding has claimed at least 48 lives and forced around 500,000 people to leave their homes, relief commissioner KS Bhadoriya told Agence France-Presse.
Twelve people lost their lives in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, while nine people were killed and 40,000 others evacuated in Bihar state, which borders Nepal’s eastern plains, officials told Agence France-Presse.
Hundreds die every year in floods and landslides during the monsoon season in South Asia.
In Nepal, the government deployed more than 3,400 workers and four helicopters to rescue stranded people and deliver emergency supplies as the weather cleared after three days of incessant rain last week.
“Yesterday [Sunday], they were only able to drop relief materials . . . because there was nowhere for the helicopter to land, but today they have managed to reach all the affected areas,” said Jhankanath Dhakal, chief of Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center.
Dhakal said the confirmed toll had risen to 105 after another seven bodies were found on Monday.
In the worst-hit districts of Surkhet, Bardiya and Dang, officials scrambled to provide distraught villagers with clean drinking water kits to try to avert a possible cholera outbreak.
“We have diagnosed a few cases displaying symptoms of cholera,” said Tulashi Prasad Dahal, who is coordinating the health ministry’s efforts to prevent an epidemic.
“People suffering from fever, dysentery, diarrhea are being treated at nearby health posts. The problems arose because of impure drinking water and food,” Dahal told Agence France-Presse.
Cholera, a potentially deadly disease which causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration, is contracted by consuming food or water contaminated by human feces.
As water levels gradually recede, allowing rescue workers to use land routes instead of relying entirely on helicopters, thousands of people have been evacuated to temporary shelters.
In Surkhet district, which suffered the worst damage with roads still underwater, officials said workers were struggling to locate scores of people reported missing.
“The flood has destroyed our water pipes, our roads and cut off our electricity, making it difficult for us to carry out necessary search and rescue operations,” district official Jagat Bahadur Basnet told Agence France-Presse.