MONSOON FLOOD Wreaking Havoc

As the monsoon floods are routine, rescue, relief and rehabilitation are the regular parts of the disaster and flood management in Nepal. With the shift of human settlement in the river banks and low land flood-prone areas and construction of roads and other development activities, the destruction of life and property has also intensified in those areas. Badly damaging two new settlements by Melamchi, Indrawati and Marsyangdi rivers have shown settlements and infrastructures developed along with riverside are under growing risk. As the temperature rises, there also increase the extreme weather resulting in the flash floods and GLOF

July 4, 2021, 9:29 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 14, No. 20, July 2, 2021 (Asadh 18, 2078) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Normally, the onset of the monsoon would be used to less devastative than the middle or end. However, the phenomenon has been changing. In the last few years, Nepal has started to see flood havoc all over the country. This year monsoon has brought the massive flood in Melamchi and Manag district killing dozens of people and destroying property and infrastructures at a massive scale.

Five fatalities with a further 19 people reported missing and loss of infrastructures including roads, bridges after heavy monsoon rainfall in Nepal triggered floods and landslides in Manag and Melamchi of Sindhupalchwok districts.

At least 16 people have died and 22 others are missing as flash floods wreaked havoc in Manang and Sindhupalchok. Heavy rains have battered the Himalayan region since Sunday, as Monsoon arrived in full fury.

A recently completed 27-kilometer long tunnel survived by chance, However, the flood of the Melamchi river damaged headworks, washed-out roads, bridges and site offices and equipment.

“We are yet to receive a report about the damage to the structures and properties. The Government is now focusing on search, rescue, and providing relief materials to those affected. In the past one week, since June 19 we have recorded 21 fatalities, 22 reports of missing and 11 cases of injuries in landslide and flooding incidents across the country,” said Janakraj Dahal, Spokesperson at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Till now Lamjung, Myagdi, Mustang, Manang, Palpa, Kalikot, Jumla, Dailekh, Bajura and Bajhang along with Sindhupalchok districts were the worst-affected areas due to floods and landslide, the ministry stated.

Sindhupalchok and Manang Districts have recorded damage in terms of lives and structures. Another hilly district of Dolakha, 25, issued a release warning people living near the Tamakoshi River of a possible flash flood.

The District Administration Office (DAO) of Dolakha had said, “Landslide after a heavy rain at Rongxia city of Tingri Country in Nepal-China border point has blocked the flow of the river and it is likely to witness a flash flood in Tamakoshi River at any time.”

The DAO has also urged people living along the Tamakoshi riverbank and Nepal-China border area to stay alert and move to higher ground.

Landslides and Floods

Landslides and floods kill hundreds in Nepal every year during the monsoon. Earlier, meteorologists of Nepal and other South Asian nations had predicted that the monsoon for the year 2021 will arrive earlier than last year and that Nepal and some other Asian countries are expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall.

As per Meteorological Forecasting Division, the monsoon has already hit Nepal from June 1 and it will continue for about three months.

As of early 29 June, 20 people have died, 25 were reported missing and 50 people were injured as a result of floods, landslides and heavy rainfall in Nepal. As many as 250 houses have been completely destroyed and dozens of others damaged.

The worst of the flooding struck in Helambu, Sindhupalchowk District, where 7 people have died, 6 injured and 15 reported as still missing. Flooding struck on 15 June 2021. Damage assessments are ongoing.

Other fatalities were reported in Ribdikot in Palpa District after a landslide on 15 June; in Machhapuchhre, Kaski District after flooding on the same day; and in Kisingh, Doti District after a landslide on 16 June.

People were reported missing in Chhatradev, Arghakhanchi District; Aarughat, Gorkha District; Mallarani in Pyuthan District; and in Temal in Kavrepalanchowk District after floods early on 17 June.

Flooding and heavy rainfall destroyed houses in Galyang, Shyanja District (8 houses destroyed); Madi in Kaski District (13); and Mandavi in Pyuthan District (4).

Heavy rain is still falling heavily in some areas. Ambapur in Dang Deukhuri District recorded 106.6 mm of rain in 24 hours to 17 June 2021. Kanyam in Ilam District recorded 61.6 mm and Rikhu in Dolakha District recorded 61.4 mm during the same period.

River levels had jumped to above the danger mark in 2 locations on 15 June. Since then levels across the country appear to be falling. As of 17 June, the Raughat Khola river at Raughat in Myagdi district was above the warning (second highest) level.

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According to Nepal Police spokesperson and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, a total of 102 people, including 94 from Sindhupalchowk and eight from Salyan, have been rescued. They have been taken to various hospitals for treatment.

Roads in various places that got blocked due to landslides and floods have been reopened by the security bodies. Work is underway to remove landslides in Darchula, Humla, Surkhet, Kalikot, Salyan and Dailekh, according to the highway blockade information issued by National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Authority.

So far, a total of 199 houses have been inundated due to the floods. Similarly, a total of 138 houses, 11 cowsheds, 12 bridges, one school and seven government offices have been damaged. A total of 1,760 people from 528 households have been displaced and 516 livestock have died. Also, the area police office in Sindhupalchowk has been shifted to Helambu and police post to Talamarang due to floods and landslides.

Bedh Nidhi Khanal, the assistant spokesperson for NDRRMA, said that a joint squad of Nepal Police, Nepali Army and Armed Police Force from the concerned police officers are actively involved in the rescue and mitigation of the damage in the affected areas.

In addition, the rescue team is working to relocate the families at risk of floods and landslides in safer places in coordination and support of various agencies and local representatives.

Relief and Rescue

As in all-natural disasters, Nepal Army is leading the mission of rescue and relief with the backing from Nepal Army, Armed Police and district administration. They also received the local population.

Like in all major disasters, Nepal Army rescued dozens of people in Sindhupalchwok and Manang. Nepal Army deployed its helicopters to rescue people from flooded houses.

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Having a long experience of working in disaster management, Nepal Army remains a frontline force to launch the rescue and relief operation in the country.

NDRRMA Chief Executive Officer Anil Pokhrel said that the government has now focused on relief distribution and proper rehabilitation of those rendered homeless from the monsoon-induced disaster.

“The government (Ministry of Home Affairs) has directed to distribute relief to the flood and landslide victims and other affected families through the one-door system. The Ministry has given written and verbal instructions to the district administration offices to distribute relief materials only through the local level,” CEO Pokhrel said.

The Ministry has directed to immediately provide Rs. 15,000 for a family of up to five members and Rs. 20,000 for those having more than five members who have lost their homes and have displaced, he said.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Rs. 999.1 million is currently in the disaster management fund of all 77 districts for relief management. Similarly, the National Disaster Management Fund headed by the Home Minister has Rs. 1.30 billion. The Central Disaster Relief Fund, chaired by the Prime Minister, has Rs. 4.14 billion.

Health Risk

Health Experts have warned about the risk of multiple diseases along with COVID-19 vulnerability to calamities victims citing the surging incidents of flood and landslide in the country.

During the incidents of natural calamities, people lose their settlements, access to food, transportation and medical supplies.

Dr. Basudev Pandey, Former Director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) and also a virologist, said that in such a grim situation, people are compelled to live in a rescue shelter, which is confined and lacks basic amenities and health hygiene sanitation.

"This, in turn, makes people prone to the attack of many water-borne diseases. Apart from it, mental health issues are often witnessed in victims of natural calamities who lost their properties and loved ones," said Dr. Pandey.

He said that the first four weeks are a very crucial time for calamities victims following relief and rescue. In the first week symptoms like vomiting, nausea, diarrhea starts to appear in people living in a grimy hoarded shelter, eating stale food and unsafe water.

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In the second week, Typhoid, Cholera, Dysentery is observed, and in the third week, a more deadly disease like Jaundice, Meningitis is witnessed, leading to more serious disease like Dengue in the fourth week.

"Therefore, the concern should be to protect the vulnerable from water and airborne diseases by facilitating with basic needs such as by cleaning the water source, providing mobile toilets and fresh food” added Dr Pandey.

He further pointed out the one-door policy needs to be adopted in the rescue shelter to ensure that fresh food and water are provided and it also minimizes the risk of transmission of COVI-19 infection in the community.

Dr. Sagar Rajbhandari, Director at the Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Prevention hospital has also reinforced that in rescue centers there is a lack of basic health hygiene as the focus is poured on to rescue and relieve.

Dr. Rajbhandari, said, “In such cases, people make the best of what they have and are compelled to live off in stale food, unsafe water, and practice unsafe latrines.

Unsafe safe water invites water-borne diseases and flies from haphazard latrine transmit the disease to food and water. Unsafe washing facilities further impure water, this cycle continues grappling many with a severe water-borne disease like Malaria, Jaundice, and Cholera.”

Dr Krishna Poudel, Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control, who is also the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population, said that the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control has formed Rapid Response Groups at all local levels and local health organizations and health workers are involved in it as the risk of health-related diseases and problems may increase after the floods and landslides.

50 People Are Missing In Landslides In Helambu

At least 50 fifty people are missing in Helambu following a landslide triggered by heavy rainfall. According to a report in Deshsanchar, the landslide washed out seven houses of Timbu Bazar areas of ward 1 of Helambu Rural Municipality of Sindhupalchwok district,

The landslide also washed out nine ponds build to grow rainbow trout. However, the people living in Timbu market are safe and secure, According to the online quoting ward chair of war no 2 Chhiring Gyalbu Lama, those includes 39 persons working in the Melamchi Project and 11 workers of the rainbow trout farm

The flood-affected ward 1, 2, 3,4,5,6 and 7 wards of the areas close to headwork of Melamchi Drinking Water Project,

Police and local people are launching the rescue work; however, it is badly disturbed due to the damage of roads linking to the landslide sites.

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Floods in Manang have swept away a rural municipality building, police post, hotel buildings and buildings of Prabhu Bank and Prime Commercial Bank.

Bishnu Lamichhane, Chief District Officer of Manang, informed that the office building of Naso Rural Municipality was washed away as the flood entered the settlement with the Marsyangadi River swollen due to incessant rains for the last three days.

The police post located in Dharapani of the same rural municipality was damaged by the floods.

CDO Lamichhane said Dharapani bazaar was at a huge risk as the Marsyangdi river was getting swollen with the rains.

The flood has washed away a belly bridge to Tachai and a suspension bridge in the Tilche area. Both of these areas lie at the lower region of Manang, a Himalayan district.

Flood has damaged the electric poles, drinking water pipes. As the poles have been pulled down, there is no electricity in the district headquarters and most people have got their mobile phones switched off. The health post located at Dharapani is at great risk, according to CDO Lamichhane.

Locals of Dharapani are taking shelter at a relatively safe village of Odar Gaun. The police said settlement nearby rivers are at high risk.

Melamchi Loss

The incessant rainfall from the past few days had increased the water level in the Melamchi River, which has swept away many houses, police stations, project camps, and government buildings among others.

Similarly, the identity of seven people who had gone out of contact from Helambu after the flood hit the area has been ascertained.

According to the Assistant Chief District Officer of the district, Madhav Bhandari, 31 and Ganesh Jyoti, 42, of Helambu-2, Tikamaya Khadka, 66, of Helambu-3, Gyanendra Kakshapati, 55, of Helambu-7, Chyangba Tamang, 50, and his wife from Helambu-6 and Surendra Nepal, 23, of Sangachowk Gadhi-6 have gone missing in the flood.

The flood on the Melamchi River from Tuesday night has caused a huge loss. "We have requested the locals to move to a safer place as soon as possible," said the Assistant Chief District Officer.

Sindhupalchowk district recorded a huge loss of lives and property due to landslides last year too. Tamang said that some people have also gone missing in Salyan, Bajura, Gorkha and Jajarkot districts.

The task of collecting other details is underway, according to the Centre. Tamang added that arrangement is being made to rescue those trapped in flood and landslide, to distribute relief materials to victims and to shift them to safer places.

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He shared that 26 people have been rescued from Nepal Army’s chopper from the Melamchi area this morning and a truck of relief materials has been sent for the area from Kathmandu.

According to the Home Ministry, preparation has been made to send relief materials for Manang from a helicopter. Five hundred people have been evacuated and moved to safer places in Manang.

Looking at the damage seen in the initial information and news, it seems that there has been an unimaginable flood. Another serious issue is that there are thousands of markets and settlements in Nepal like Melamchi Bazaar, at the same risk!

Based on the floods in Achham and Baglung of the last year and Melamchi and many other incidents, the government has to take a decisive decision to minimize the loss of life and property by assessing the risk of cities, markets, and settlements along the river. The current early warning system and structural prevention measures do not seem to make much of a difference in emergencies and catastrophes of this nature.

Keshab Poudel

Keshab Poudel

Poudel is the editor of New Spotlight Magazine.

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