KATHMANDU, July 16 : At least 16 people were rescued during a combined operation of army and police in Khotang, the scene of multiple landslides yesterday. The search and rescue operation also succeeded in extricating at least 37 bodies from the rubbles of the houses dismantled in Sungdel and Dipsung areas of the district.
After returning from the landslide sites, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) at the Eastern Regional Police Office in Biratnagar, Rajendra Bahadur Singh, said that 16 people were rescued alive on Tuesday. He said that they were airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment.
Sungdel VDC Secretary Homnath Khanal said, "We thoroughly verified each of the households and found only 43 people were missing".
Khanal said that all the bodies buried underneath the landslides would be recovered by Wednesday provided that the weather condition is favourable for rescue operations. An army helicopter that flew from Kathmandu along with immediate relief materials could not land in the areas due to foggy weather condition.
Chairman of neighbouring Baksila VDC, Dipendra Kumar Rai, told The Kathmandu Post that 41 people were killed in the Sungdel VDC-2 and 6, and two others were killed the Dipsung VDC-2. The landslides also washed away 35 houses, one health post and a VDC office building. More than 300 cattle were also buried in the rubble. Over 90 other houses have been totally damaged, he added.
Details of property damaged in the natural disaster are yet to be assessed, as locals, Royal Nepal Army and Nepal Police personnel are still busy in rescuing the people still missing in the rubble, Baksila VDC Chairman Rai said.
Preliminary reports pouring in from the sites had suggested that around 150 people were missing in the landslides.
Sungdel VDC Chairman, Ran Bahadur Rai, is now facing the biggest misfortune in his life because he lost all seven family members, including his one-and-half-month-old daughter, in the tragic incident. Thirteen other travellers who were staying in his house during that fateful night were among those who went missing.
Khanal said that survivors of the natural disaster are now taking refuge in open sky without any food to eat and clothes to change. "They have nothing to eat and to live," he said.
Additional rescue teams, including Nepal Red Cross Society, from Diktel, Khotang’s district headquarters, and Sankhuwasabha have reached the area along with immediate relief. Secretary Khanal said that Nepal Red Cross Society would begin with distributing relief materials from Wednesday.
Meanwhile, issuing separate press statements in the capital today, Khotang Sewa Samaj and major political parties have expressed profound sorrow over the losses of lives in such a large-scale and damages of property in the VDCs.
In their press statements, they have wished speedy recovery of those who sustained injuries in the incidents and demanded the government provide immediate compensation to the bereaved family members and long-term rehabilitation to the displaced families.
Keeping in mind the grave situation, the Khotang Sewa Samaj has constituted a 101-member "Khotang Landslide Victims Co-operation Committee, Kathmandu" to collect relief materials to the victims. It has appealed to all to extend their assistance in the event of great misery.
Major political parties who expressed their deep sorrow over the deaths of the people and damages of property are the Girija Prasad Koirala-led Nepal Congress, erstwhile main opposition CPN-UML and Nepal Sadbhawana Party.