MaiyaTamang, a resident of Tatopani Bazar, 90 kilometers of east of Kathmandu near China border, lost her 3-story house in the flash floods of BhoteKosi river, which originates in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.
Just a year ago, a big earthquake completely destroyed Tatopani, Liping and Larchi, which were thriving hubs until that time. The recent flash floods have completely ruined the markets as the river continues cutting western banks on the Tatopani sides.
“I don’t have anything now as I have lost all my property,” said MaiyaTamang, 50. In a way, as the houses of the market were built on the bank of Bhotekoshi River, this kind of destruction was inevitable. However, nobody saw the threat of the river showing its fury in the flash floods in the past.
A sudden rise in water levels of a trans-boundary river originating in the Himalayas, in Tibet of China triggered the flash floods washing away over six dozen houses and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate to safer places.
Local Police said out of the 200 houses in Tatopani and Liping bazaars, the BhoteKoshi flood has washed away 67 houses and many other houses are still under a threat of flood.
According to police officials, major road sections and hydropower projects, including the Bhotekoshi Hydropower Project, have suffered damage in the flash floods.
Eyewitnesses said that Bhotekoshi saw a sudden rise of about four meters in water level on the dreadful night of July 9.
Although over two dozen houses were already washed away, over 200 houses were at risk of floods due to the rise in water level. Although the local administration had issued alerts for Bhotekoshiriver and asked the downstream villagers to move to safer locations, victims like MaiyaTamang have no place to go.
“I don’t have any other place to go now. Earthquake destroyed my home in the village and flood destroyed another home here,” said Tamang, who is now living in a temporary shelter.
Experts hold the view that the sudden rise in water levels in Bhotekoshiriver could be due to cloudbursts in mountain areas on the Tibet side, bringing high-intensity rains within a short period of time.
As the river washed out the roads and destroyed the houses, District Administration mobilized Nepal Army and Nepal Police to help people go to safer places.
The deadly earthquake of last year had devastated Liping and Tatopani Bazaar of Sindhupalchowk. Before these places could recover, floods in the BhoteKoshi River have left these towns so battered that reconstruction seems impossible.
“Though the water level had gone down in the river, erosion caused by the river in the bazaar area was responsible for the destruction. If the water flow remains as it is now, no house will stand in the two bazaars,” said Inspector KhumlalBhusal.
“Our houses are destroyed by the rivers. The river has also damaged the roads badly and it will take months before the vehicle traffic can resume,” said Lakpa Sherpa of Kodari. “The destruction by the flood is greater than the destruction by the earthquake,”
“What I can say right now is that the floods have complexly ruined the villages and swept away our police post and other government offices as well,” said inspector Bhusal.
With the request of local authorities, Nepali Army airlifted as many as 58 locals from Tatopani to Barhabishe.
Along with the houses, BhoteKoshi has eroded the road from Jambu to Tatopani at Gati VDC. Vehicular movement was disrupted after the river eroded the road at many places along the Araniko Highway from Barhabishe to Tatopani. As the road link is completely destroyed, there is no other way to reach Tatopani now.
Earlier, the flood in BhoteKoshi had damaged the Upper BhoteKoshi dam, inundated four industries, and swept away four vehicles. The flood washed away one school, one Bailey bridge and one suspension bridge.
As the flood has eroded Miteri Bridge, there is a slim possibility of the trade point between China and Nepal at Tatopani coming into operation any time soon.
This is not the first time Bhotekosi river destroyed Tatopani. The flood in 1981 had washed away Miteri Bridge at the border point of Nepal and China and the cemented bridge towards Fulping.
“Human settlements in Tatopani, Barhabise, Lamosanghu and Khadichaur of Sindhupalchok are at a high risk of inundation due to a massive floods in the Bhotekoshi River," said SP Rabindra KC of the District Police Office, Sindhupalchok.
“The flood has caused a heavy damage. We are yet to calculate the cost of the damage as we are collecting more information,” said Chief District Officer GokarnamaniDuwadi of Sindhupalchok.
BhoteKosi incident is not the first incident. Landslides and floods are causing a havoc throughout the country. According to Ministry of Home Affairs, the floods have affected 60 districts of Nepal and landslides have affected 62 districts. The floods and landslides killed 52 people injuring 60 and damaging over Rs. 2 billion worth of property.
As torrential rains continue, more floods and landslides are likely in the coming days. Experts have already warned that Nepal’s fragile topography cracked by the earthquake is more prone to landslides.
Ministry of Home Affairs has already directed the concerned officers, including the Chief District Officers, to remain alert on the possible natural disasters. Nobody can say when and where the rains create a greater panic.
Following the installment of early warning system in some flood areas of western and eastern regions, some lives can be saved. However, the remote hills of Nepal are prone to these major disasters.
According to Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, there will be an average rainfall throughout the country and excessive rainfall in some hills.
With the political instability continuing to the rock the country, the plight and pain of the people affected by the landslides and floods are of least concern for the political leadership. Given the current trend, the rain and flood is expected to create more panic in the days ahead.