(Formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Erratic weather triggers landslides, deaths

Rescue worker on the scene of a landslide in July 2011. Incessant rains have resulted in landslides across parts of Nepal
Courtesy of Nepal Red Cross Society

Officials warn of further landslide deaths following heavy rains throughout the end of the monsoon season.



“We have noticed intermittent heavy downpours following by scorching heat, which is a dangerous weather pattern in the country,” Pitamber Aryal, director of the Nepal Red Cross Society’s (NRCS) disaster management department, told IRIN. Days of rain followed by hot weather, created an erratic, unpredictable climate, he said. "If the pattern continues, the potential for more losses stands high."



At least 65 people have been killed, 24 are missing and 1,826 people have been affected across 44 of the country’s 75 districts since the rain began in late June, according to a 21 July situation report released by the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator’s office.



NRCS says most deaths were caused by landslides, which killed 44 people in 10 western districts 300km from Kathmandu, as well as in the central region 50km from the capital.



In one incident 13 people died on 14 July in Purtikanda village in Rukum District, nearly 400km northwest of Kathmandu, and the houses of 31 families were destroyed.



Balkrishna Panthi, who heads the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), said erratic weather patterns and Nepal’s lack of resources to conduct long-term weather forecasts are a major problem.



About 80 percent of Nepal is rugged mountainous terrain, and this, combined with soft soil cover and high intensity rainfall make landslides more likely, according to the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.



Every year, landslides kill more than 100 people, destroy 3,000-4,000 houses, affect 8,000-9,000 families, and cost USS$1 billion, according to the government.



George Murray from the office of the UN resident coordinator said the government is getting better at responding to landslides, with efforts to strengthen the disaster management system, but mountain regions remain highly vulnerable, according to the government.



“The government is alert and prepared for crisis management. We will mobilize all resources, manpower and local government bodies including the security agencies if there’s further disaster,” NEOC’s Panthi said.



For now, the country can only map the landslide disaster areas and try and help affected families. Preventing future landslides is not yet possible, say experts.



nn/nb/cb


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