Dozens Feared Dead After Floods and Landslides in Taplejung, Nepal

Reports from Nepal say that over 40 people have been killed and over 80 injured in floods and landslides in the Taplejung district of eastern Nepal. Many more are thought to be missing.

June usually sees the start of Nepal’s monsoon. Nearly 130 mm of rain fell in the Taplejung between 10 and 11 June 2015, according to the Meteorological Forecasting Division of the Government of Nepal. The heavy rain has caused the Mewa and Tamor rivers to burst their banks and triggered landslides.

Local media say one landslide in Taplejung has affected the several villages, including Liwang, Thokling, Thinglabu and Lingket VDCs in Taplejung district.

The area is remote, and attempts by rescue and relief operations teams to reach the affected area have been hampered by poor weather.

Area affected by landslide in Taplejung district, Nepal. Photo: Nepal Police
Area affected by landslide in Taplejung district, Nepal. Photo: Nepal Police
Area affected by landslide in Taplejung district, Nepal. Photo: Nepal Police
Area affected by landslide in Taplejung district, Nepal. Photo: Nepal Police

Mapping Potential Landslide Sites

Although Taplejung was not severely affected by the devastating earthquake of April, research after the quake found that many slopes across Nepal remained unstable and vulnerable to landslides, and that the situation was likely to worsen with the onset of monsoon rains.

The threat of post-quake landslides in Nepal is so great that NASA is working on mapping potential locations. Last week, NASA announced that a team of international volunteers was working through satellite imagery of the earthquake-affected areas in Nepal to identify possible landslide locations.

“Landslides are a common secondary hazard triggered by earthquakes or rainfall,” said Dalia Kirschbaum, a remote sensing scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a leader of a landslide mapping effort. “Because landslides can mobilize and move so quickly, they often cause more damage than people realize.”

Scientists were using sources such as Landsat satellites, the Earth Observing-1 satellite, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on the Terra satellite, the WorldView and GeoEye satellites operated by Digital Globe, and image mosaics and topographic information accessible in Google Earth.

In their statement, NASA said that mapping landslides is especially important because of the impending monsoon season in Nepal where the highest number of landslides occur. The team is providing information that Nepalese government, military, and scientific entities could use to make informed decisions about evacuations and relief support.

Satellite map of landslides in Nepal. Image: NASA
Satellite map of landslides in Nepal. Image: NASA