by Ramesh Bhushal
major landslide in western Nepal’s Myagdi district blocked the Kali Gandaki river late on the night of May 23. According to Nepal government officials, no casualty has been reported, but at least 125 people from one of the affected villages have been shifted to a safer place and thousands downstream have been put on alert. Downstream India may also be affected if the landslide is swept away by the weight of the water now accumulating behind it.
“We have issued an alert to people in seven districts downstream as a large volume of water has been accumulated, forming a lake more than two kilometres in length,” said Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, Western Regional Administrator, Government of Nepal. According to Thapaliya, many cities and villages downstream are at risk and people have fled to higher altitude to escape a potential flash flood.
The landslide occurred at Kafaldanda area of Ramche village in Myagdi district. The Kali Gandaki joins the Narayani river in southern Nepal and the two together form a part of the Nepal-India border. After that, the river – now called Gandak – flows largely through Bihar before joining the Ganga at Patna.
According to a preliminary estimate, at least four million cusec of water has already accumulated behind the landslide spot. “We have been informed by our security forces that the river has been completely blocked and a huge lake has been formed so the team has been observing the situation and providing information accordingly,” added Thapaliya.
According to a Twitter message by the police in Nepal, the districts placed under alert are Myagdi, Baglung, Parbat, Gulmi, Palpa, Syangja, Tanahu and Nawalparasi. Another tweet by the police says, the lake formed due to the landslide has reached a depth of 150 metres within 12 hours of the landslide, and was already more than a kilometre in length. Local residents said that by mid-morning on May 24, the lake was already three kilometres long.
According to local journalists, a Nepal Army helicopter landed near the landslide spot on May 24 morning, but could not reach the exact location, as rocks were still falling down the slopes in the aftermath of the landslide. Myagdi’s district headquarter Beni – which lies along the river – has been evacuated. Local radio stations have been alerting residents downstream.