Nearly 200 deaths as rains lash Nepal and India

Toll from landslides and flooding in Nepal jumped overnight to 88 on Thursday

Nearly 200 people have died in floods and landslides in India and Nepal, officials said on Thursday, with families buried in their homes and two young girls swept away. Forecasters warned of more heavy rain.

Experts say that they were victims of the more unpredictable and extreme weather that has hit South Asia in recent years, caused by climate change and exacerbated by deforestation, damming and excessive development.

In the unusually late deluge of rain in the region, Nepal recorded the sharpest rise in casualties overnight, with 88 people now dead, among them a family of six whose house was obliterated by an avalanche of soil and debris.

"It doesn't rain this time of the year," said Nawaraj Kattel, 37, a local journalist who fled his flooded home in Morang in eastern Nepal.

"There are about 100 families in our area, everyone fled. We are staying at my sister's house but many don't have shelters. Many also lost their harvest," he told AFP.

In the Himalayan north Indian state of Uttarakhand, some parts of which recorded the most rain in more than a century, 55 people on Thursday were confirmed as having died.

They included five people from a family whose house was buried by a huge landslide.

Many bridges and roads are damaged and many towns are cut off, and the army has been brought in to restore contact and reach thousands of people stranded. Thousands were left without power.

More danger for Kerala

In Kerala in southern India, where 42 people have died since last week, forecasters issued warnings of heavy rains in at least three districts in the state after a respite in recent days.

The flooding in the state on the Arabian Sea – which scientists say is warming – revived memories of 2018, when nearly 500 people perished in the worst flooding there in a century.

"We have seen death in the face. We are very lucky to be alive," said Sasidharan, 72, who lost his ancestral home in a landslide and is now in a relief camp.

"We have lost everything. The only things we could recover were our undergarments. Identity documents, bank documents, property documents – we have lost everything," he told AFP.

"We heard the sound of rocks falling and looked outside. I was really scared," said his granddaughter Nandana, 11.

"Our neighbours are gone. They were my friends. We used to play together."

Five people died in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, including two girls aged 8 and 10 from the same family who were swept away as heavy rains pounded the hills of Darjeeling and other districts.

"Mud, rocks and water tumbling down the hills of Darjeeling damaged nearly 400 houses and several thousand people were evacuated away from the swollen rivers on the foothills," Disaster Management Minister Javed Amhed Khan told AFP.

"Several hundred tourists are stranded in the hill resort of Darjeeling. Landslides blocked highways and roads in the region," he said.

The Met office issued a red alert for the state, warning that extremely heavy rainfall would continue in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Alipurdur on Thursday.

The Red Cross said its teams were helping with relief efforts in both countries and warning people living farther downstream of further threats from rising floodwaters and landslides.

"Crops and homes have been wiped out, which is a severe blow to families already grappling with the devastating fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.

"The people of Nepal and India are sandwiched between the pandemic and worsening climate disasters, heavily impacting millions of lives and livelihoods."

Updated: October 21st 2021, 2:23 PM
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