Thousands Flee Landslide in Nepal

At least 12 were killed, over 150 are missing

Aug 1, 2014
Outside Magazine

A landslide has dammed up part of the Sunkoshi River and could cause additional damage downstream if it bursts.    Wikimedia Commons

In Nepal, more than 150 people are missing and a dozen are confirmed dead after a landslide near the village of Ramche buried roughly 180 homes and created an earthen dam across the Sunkoshi River. Among the victims were employees of Nepal’s popular adventure-tour operator The Last Resort.

The outfitter’s managing director posted to Facebook Saturday night: “This a picture of where our riverside base was and had been for 20 years. We have lost friends, staff, and family. Hoping that the dam won’t burst and cause major damage downstream. Pray for some luck.”

Making matters worse, the resort’s local manager died after being struck by a helicopter blade as he helped load passengers for evacuation.

A lower stretch of the Sunkoshi is considered Nepal’s classic multi-day rafting run, though tour operators don’t offer trips there during the summer monsoon, when flows can reach 250,000 cubic feet per second.

The slide, which happened late Saturday, cut off the Arniko Highway, the overland route between Kathmandu and Tibet that’s used by expeditions traveling to Everest’s north side. Villages in the area have been evacuated as monsoon rains continue to fall, softening the Himalayan foothills 75 miles northeast of Kathmandu.

The danger is far from over. Rains continue to fall in the region, and the three-mile lake that formed behind the landslide has engulfed more homes. More urgent is the possibility that the increasing pressure on the dam could burst it, sending a wall of water southward that could threaten thousands of people as far away as India.

According to the Associated Press, Nepalese troops were able to blast away part of the dam, relieving some of the pressure, but much water remains.

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