Massive landslide in Sindhupalchok kills 11 peopleTwenty villagers have gone missing in Sunday morning’s tragedy, said police.
At least 11 people died and 20 others have gone missing when a landslide caused by heavy rainfall struck Ghumthang in Bahrabise Municipality Ward No 7, Sindhupalchok, on Sunday.
The massive landslide erupted from a fragile landmass—weakened by the 2015 earthquake and its powerful aftershocks—above Ghumthang village and swept away Bhirkharka, Nagpuje and Dandagaun settlements at around 3:30 am. The landslide swept away 22 houses and emptied in the Bhotekoshi river some three kilometres below. The area had been witnessing incessant rainfall since Saturday evening.
"We never thought such a massive landslide would occur," said Surya Bahadur Khadka, 70, of Ghumthang. “We knew the landmass had weakened after the earthquakes in 2015 but neither the local government nor the villagers took the threat seriously.”
Security personnel from the Area Police Office in Bahrabise, with the help of locals, rescued the victims who were trapped in the landslide debris.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Prakash Sapkota, security personnel have recovered 11 bodies so far while the search for the missing victims is underway. He said nine bodies were recovered from the incident site while one each was found in the Sunkoshi and Bhotekoshi rivers.
Six villagers were injured in the landslide. They were taken to Sindhu Sadabahar Hospital in Khandichaur. One of the injured villagers who was in a critical condition has been referred to Kathmandu for treatment, said police.
According to locals, there is a rivulet near the settlements named Taksare khola, which is often flooded during the rainy season and is prone to dry landslides during winter.
“The debris from a dry landslide last year had accumulated in the rivulet which was swept into the settlements by the heavy rainfall last night,” said Khadka of Ghumthang.
There are around 200 houses at Bhirkharka, Nagpure and Newar Tol settlements in Ghumthang village. The locals had sensed the risk of landslide at Nagpuje settlement and had informed the people's representatives about it.
"The villagers had informed the people's representatives but they didn’t do anything about it. The tragedy could have been averted if they had paid attention to the locals," said Sun Kumari Tamang, who was preparing to shift to a safe location after she lost her house to the landslide on Sunday.
According to Min Bahadur Shrestha, the chairman of Ward No. 7 of the local unit, the people's representatives had held a discussion a week ago about a possible landslide threat in the Nagpuje area and had informed the district administration office and the district office of National Reconstruction Authority.
"We urged the authorities repeatedly to address the issue but the National Reconstruction Authority did not listen to us. We were tired of requesting them," said Shrestha. According to him, as many as 58 families have shifted to the lower region of the settlement where the threat of landslides is minimal. “The displaced families are living in tents right now. Some of them are taking shelter in their relatives’ houses.”
Sindhupalchok continues to get battered by natural disasters this year. In August, a massive landslide had struck Lidi village, destroying 17 houses and damaging 37 others. As many as 39 villagers perished and 135 families were displaced in the disaster.