Nepal is experiencing one of the most devastating monsoon seasons in last couple of years with at least 37 landslides and debris flows reported over the past four months. In flash floods and landslides caused by heavy rain that started on Wednesday, August 13, at least 53 people have lost their lives, Nepal's Home Ministry reported today adding that a further 75 are still unaccounted for.
The worst flood-hit region was the southwestern district of Surkhet, where floods killed some twenty people, according to Kantipur Television. The torrential rains have blocked major highways and stranded hundreds. Flooding on the southern plains has displaced hundreds more, officials said. In 2010, British climate consultancy Maplecroft included Nepal in its list of countries most vulnerable to climate change impact over the next 30 years. (DW)
According to a report compiled by the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) on loss of lives and properties from disaster, a total of 545 events of 12 different types of natural disasters reported within the past four months until August 8 claimed 216 lives with landslide topping the list, followed by thunderbolts. (eKantipur)
One of the deadliest landslides in Nepal's recent history occurred on August 2, 2014, when a 1.9 km long slope of land perched 1 350 meters above the Sun Koshi river collapsed in the district of Sindupalchowk, near Kathmandu. It buried a village and blocked the river forming a dangerous build-up of water. More than 150 people lost their lives. This landslide is being described as a final wake-up call for hazard mapping, early warning and disaster management in Nepal.
According to Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), the August 2 event caused one of the highest death tolls due to a landslide in a single village in Nepal’s history since records began in the 1950s. In the past decade landslides in Nepal killed over 1 300 people and destroyed 10 000 houses.
The country has experienced over 14 large landslides since 1967, according to government records. (IRIN)
Approximate location of August 2 landslide.
Every monsoon, the mid hill and the mountain region of the country witness the occurrence of thousands of new and reactivated landslides, causing a huge loss of lives and property. Weak and fragile geological structures, including fractured rocks and fine particles compounded with climatic conditions such as monsoon, make a majority of places in the mid hills prone to landslides and debris flow. (eKantipur)
The volume of water in the Koshi river recorded this year's highest 8 677 m3/s (306 430 ft3/s) on Thursday, August 14. The Koshi has an average water flow of 2 166 m3/s (76 500 ft3/s). During floods, it increases to as much as 18 times the average. The greatest recorded flood was 24 200 m3/s (850,000 ft3/s) on August 24, 1954.
During 2013 monsoon season, heavy rains that flooded towns and villages killed thousands in Uttarakhand in neighboring India while dozens died in Kanchenpur and Darchula districts in west Nepal.
The annual monsoon rains are crucial to India's and Nepal's agriculture but they also cause flooding and landslides that claims lives and damages property. It is a blessing and a curse at the same time, a final wake-up call for hazard mapping and disaster management.
Featured image credit: OCHA - Nepal