Death toll in Nepal floods climbs to 49

Nepali residents helping each other to cross flooded area at Birgunj Parsa district, some 200 km south of Kathmandu, on Sunday. — AFP

KATHMANDU Torrential rain battered Nepal on Sunday, causing widespread flooding and landslides and raising the death toll from three days of severe weather to 49 people, according to officials.

The toll could go higher as three dozen people were reported missing. Another 17 were injured.

The heavy rain, which mainly hit the country’s southern plains, led to the evacuation of 5,000 people, a Home Ministry official said.

More than 30 people were reported dead on Saturday.

Army and police personnel continued search and rescue operations, with more than 34,000 houses submerged, the official added.

“The number of dead could increase as we are still compiling the final tally,” said Laxmi Pun, an aide to Home Minister Janardan Sharma, said.

Torrential downpours have destroyed homes and infrastructure in more than a dozen districts since Friday morning, and forced families to climb into trees to escape the rapidly rising waters.

“Since Friday, at least 40 people have been killed in the floods and landslides,” Home Ministry spokesman Deepak Kafle said.

The Red Cross estimated 100,000 people were affected by the disaster, with one official describing how the storm had cut off communication and electricity, adding to the challenges in rescuing people and distributing aid supplies such as food and water to displaced people.

“Our search and rescue teams are working continuously in affected areas. We are also providing relief to the victims.”

The Red Cross said in a statement the death toll had reached at least 53, with dozens more missing and injured.

Footage aired on Nepali broadcasters showed villagers wading through waist-high water with their belongings and using boats to reach higher ground.

Families perched on trees with young children overnight as floodwaters swept away homes in a village in southern district of Chitwan, local media reported.

In the popular jungle safari resort of Sauraha in Chitwan, hotels were forced to shift their guests to higher floors as waters rushed into the premises.

A hotel owner said they used elephants to transport tourists to the nearest open highway and airport to help them return to the capital Kathmandu.

“There isn’t a house without water. Hundreds of families are taking shelter in local schools,” said Raghu Ram Mehta, a resident of Sunsari district, which has suffered nine deaths, the highest of any district.

Biratnagar airport in eastern Morang district was closed after being submerged in a meter of water, said authorities at the international terminal.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba expressed his condolences and urged people to remain.

“I have already instructed authorities concerned to rescue flood victims, move them to safer locations and immediately provide relief to them. All four security agencies have already swung into action,” he said in a video recording on Saturday.

The latest casualties bring the death toll from this year’s monsoon season to more than 100, government records show.

Nearly 100 people died last year in Nepal during the rainy season, which typically begins in late June and lasts until the end of August. — Agencies