Landslides, floods kill 109 in Nepal, India
Kathmandu - The death toll from landslides and flooding triggered by torrential monsoon rains in Nepal and northern India climbed to at least 109 on Saturday as tides of water, mud and rocks swept away houses, officials said.
Incessant rains have displaced thousands of people in the scenic Himalayan region, reviving memories of a deadly deluge last year that killed more than 5 000 people in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and neighbouring Nepal.
Heavy downpours in Nepal over the past three days have left about 1 500 people stranded in waterlogged homes, waiting for rescue by helicopters, said home ministry spokesperson Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.
The rains have damaged roads across the country's western plains bordering India, with poor visibility hindering helicopter rescue efforts.
"At least 53 people have been killed in landslides and flooding over the last three days, 36 have suffered injuries and 75 are missing," Dhakal told AFP.
"Because of the damage to roads in the area, we can only deliver relief supplies like tents and medicines by helicopter," he said.
Army officials rescued about 300 people on Saturday, while hundreds more awaited in the worst-hit districts of Surkhet and Bardiya, where electricity lines snapped, leaving thousands without power.
"We have had no power all day and we are struggling to reach affected people," said Bardiya district official Tej Prasad Paudel.
In neighbouring Banke district, flooding caused by heavy rain washed away homes, district official Jeevan Oli said.
"We've recovered four bodies, including two children. We've looking for four more people whose hut was swept away last night," Oli told AFP.
The deaths come two weeks after the worst landslide in over a decade smashed into hamlets in northeastern Nepal, killing 156 people.
Monsoon rains have also forced officials to close a major bridge along the country's longest highway after it developed cracks and caved in.
Evacuations in India
Meanwhile, heavy downpours in neighbouring India triggered landslides and flooding that claimed at least 24 lives since on Friday, according to government officials.
In Uttarakhand state, seven people were killed in their sleep by a landslide as monsoon rains pounded the hilly region this week.
"Seven people were killed while one woman was pulled alive by rescue workers from the debris of a house which collapsed due to overnight rain," district Magistrate Chandresh Yadav told AFP, adding the total death toll was now 24.
According to officials in Pauri district, at least 50 families were stranded and the army was being deployed to evacuate them.
With more rain predicted in the next 24 hours, state authorities have sought reinforcements from the army and the air force, said Indian government spokesperson Surendra Kumar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief on Twitter over the loss of lives in the state.
Hundreds of people die every year in floods and landslides during the monsoon season in South Asia.
While annual rains are a lifeline for the region's farmers, flooding, landslides and building collapses are frequent during the monsoon season, which lasts from June to September.
Earlier this month, at least 151 people were killed in western Indian city of Pune by a massive landslide caused by rains.