Landslide Threatens Massive Flooding in Nepal and India

The massive landslide that struck in the Nepal district of Sindhupalchowk on 01 August 2014 has blocked the Sunkoshi (Sun Kosi) river, creating a lake that some reports claim measures at least three kilometres by 300 metres.

The landslide buried dozens of homes and left over 150 people missing. Rescue teams including the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are working in the area but initial reports say the chances of finding the victims alive are fading. Several villages situated along the river have been evacuated. Around 120 relief camps have been set up to accommodate the displaced.

nepal landslide
Photo: Nepal Army

The Sunkoshi hydropower project has been shut down as a result of the flooding. Two more power stations further downstream are also threatened. The whole area has been declared a “Flood Crisis Zone” by the Nepal government.

Nepalese military engineers, assisted by engineers from India, have been working in the area to try to unblock the river to find a way to allow safe controlled runoff of the water. So far 2 low intensity blasts have partially removed some of the landslide debris. The current plan appears to take a step-by-step approach so that the accumulated water is discharged slowly.

Nepal army engineers working on clearing the landslide debris on the Sunkoshi river. Photo courtesy of the Nepal Army
Nepal army engineers working on clearing the landslide debris on the Sunkoshi river. Photo courtesy of the Nepal Army

Threat of Floods in Bihar, India

In the Indian state of Bihar that borders Nepal, thousands are at risk of flooding from the blocked Sunkoshi river in Nepal. The Bihar Disaster Management Department (DMD) say that levels of the Kosi river are already increasing and fear the worst should the blockage break suddenly.

“If the entire blockage is blown away at one go and 25 lakh cusecs of water is discharged all of a sudden, it will bring a deluge in north Bihar,” the DMD Special Secretary said.

On Sunday 3 August 2014 the department ordered evacuations of at least 40,000 people in 9 districts situated along the Kosi river. Thousands still remain in the threatened areas and the Disaster Management Department say they aim to evacuate all of those under threat. The state will receive assistance from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

2008 Bihar Floods

The current disaster comes almost exactly 6 years after the 2008 Bihar floods, when the Kosi river broke its banks near the Indo-Nepal border. The ensuing floods affected over 2 million people in Bihar, killing over 400.

More Photos of the Landslide and River in Sindhupalchowk

All photos below are copyright of Kapil Dhital and used with permission.

Flooded area upstream of the landslide.
Flooded area upstream of the landslide.
Nepal Landslide - part of the mountain is now blocking the flow of the river.
Nepal Landslide – part of the mountain is now blocking the flow of the river.
The newly formed "natural dam" in the background
The newly formed “natural dam” in the background
Flooded area upstream of the blockage
Flooded area upstream of the blockage