POKHARA, May 5: At least 13 persons were killed and over three dozen including three Russian tourists have gone missing in a flashflood after the bursting of the Seti river through obstruction in the Annapurna mountain region of Machhapuchchhre Village Development Committee (VDC), Kaski district on Saturday morning.
A Nepal Army (NA) team which carried out a helicopter survey of the affected area said that landslides following rainfall had apparently blocked the Seti river a few days ago at an altitude of around 4,600 meters.
The huge mass of blocked water, accumulated also from the melting of ice due to rising temperatures, burst through the temporary barrier at around 9 a.m., resulting in the flashflood, according to chief of NA Western Division Major General Victor Shumsher Rana.
An NA helicopter sent from Kathmandu following directives from Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai conducted an aerial survey of the Annapurna range and the flood-affected area later in the day. Maj. Gen. Rana, police chief of the Western Region DIG Rajendra Singh Bhandari and Kaski Chief District Officer (CDO) Chet Nath Bhattarai, among others, carried out the survey.
CDO Bhattarai said only Gopal Tamrakar, 70, of Kharapani and Archan Shrestha, 19, a resident of Bagale Tole, Pokhara-8 and student at La-Grandi College, and have been identified among the dead. Bhattarai said details about casualties and the missing have not been confirmed but children and other locals in nearby villages and tourists who were at the site and at Tatopani springs have been swept away.
Chief of police in Kaski SP Shailesh Thapa said Dhunge Buda, 70, Chet Bahadur Thapa, 21, of La-Grandi College, Dorje Tamang, 55, a 60-year-old known as Chasme Budha, Bishnu Gurung, 40, and man with the surname Bhujel are reported missing.
Three Russian tourists--Ckopo Sygell, Ivan Mallkho and Polon Chukalla, who had gone to the bazaar at Kharapani, are also missing, They were staying at Traveler Guest House at Pokhara Lakeside and had planned to return to Kathmandu on Sunday.
The deluge swept down rocks, cutting into the river banks. In no time, the flood entered the river-side settlements and swept away people, houses, farms and cattle. According to eyewitnesses, people swept away at Sardikhola were found dead near Pokhara five kilometers away. Two buildings and 16 huts, three trucks and a tractor were also swept away.
The flooded river swept away entire houses at Kharapani bazaar of Sardikhola VDC. There were seven houses, including a solid-build one, in the bazaar. According to VDC Secretary Jagannath Adhikari, people in the houses were also swept away.
Goman Singh of Machhapuchchhre VDC said that the flood burst started with a thunderous sound around 9 a.m. “We saw huge rocks and trees drifting in the flood. In no time the flood approached the village and we started running for our lives.”
A joint team of the NA, police and the Armed Police Force (APF) was mobilized for rescue work throughout the day. Those rescued are being treated at different hospitals of Pokhara.
Hundreds of people from Pokhara gathered to watch the flood. According to police, the security personnel present were insufficient to control the crowds at the river banks. The onlookers saved a man swept by the flood. He was immediately admitted to Manipal Teaching Hospital for treatment. However, some onlookers also jumped in the river to grab fish and wood washed up near the bank by the flood.