KATHMANDU, August 13: The death toll from floods and landslides triggered by incessant rains for the past three days has risen to 49, authorities have said. Other three dozen people remain missing in various districts.
Monsoon rains that started since Friday have created mayhem in the eastern, central and western taai affecting thousands of families. More natural calamities are expected to follow as meteorologists have predicted the rainfalls to continue till Tuesday.
"So far, a total of 49 people have been confirmed dead. The figure could go up as a joint team of security forces have been carrying out search and rescue," said Nepal Police spokesperson DIG Pushkar Karki. He said that around 31,000 families have been displaced by the floods and landslides.
Notably, seven member of a family in Makwanpur district were killed due to landslides on Sunday. Similarly, six people died in Rauthat district in the central tarai after an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman was caught up in flash floods.
Officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) the actual number of displaced families could be much higher as many villages are still awaiting rescue and evacuations. The search and rescue teams have not been able to reach several affected villages due to bad weather.
The government has not been able to dispatch necessary assistance and relief materials to the affected families due to the challenging weather. Several districts in the tarai have been witnessing continuous rains for the third straight day.
The incessant rains have particularly hit basic facilities including transportation, power supply and communications. Several major highways, notably the East West highway, and inner roads linking villages have been badly hit by the floods and landslides.
Though security forces have been using helicopters to supply aid and other essentials including food, blanket and medicine to the affected families, many areas inundated by the floods still remain inaccessible.
"Relief materials have been kept on standby. But the problem is that we are facing difficulties reaching the affected villagers cut off from transportation and communication facilities," said Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). He said that the rescue team would be mobilized in the affected areas once the weather improves. Biratnagar airport, the only airport connecting the affected areas of eastern Nepal, has been shut down after the runway was inundated by flood waters.
Amid mounting criticisms over sluggish response, the government has formed a central command post comprising various government agencies including three security agencies for speedy rescue and rehabilitation of the affected people.
"The central command has been monitoring the rescue and relief work being carried out across the country. It has made it much easier to provide timely assistance to the people in need," said Subedi.
Even as MoHA officials claim that search and rescue teams have been deployed in all areas, our reporters on the ground said that the rescue and releif teams have yet to reach many villages in Jhapa, Rautahat, Banke, Sunsari, Saptari, ,Mahottari, Chitwan and Surkhet.