x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Up to 60 feared dead after flash floods in Nepal

Rescuers scouring Nepal's central Annapurna region say there is almost no hope of finding survivors.

KATHMANDU // Rescuers scouring Nepal's central Annapurna region after severe flash flooding said yesterday that there was almost no hope of finding survivors and that the final toll could be as high as 60 dead.

The bodies of 15 people have been recovered but district police superintendent Sailesh Thapa said 43 missing people, including three Ukrainian tourists, were feared dead.

"So far, 12 of the 15 bodies have been identified. An excavator has reached the worst affected areas and is clearing the mud," he said.

"We have a list of another 43 people who have gone missing. Their chances of survival are almost zero."

Just eight people have been rescued since the Seti burst its banks near the city of Pokhara, a popular tourist hub, on Saturday, sweeping away an entire village, and swamping families enjoying picnics on the river banks.

Most of the missing are thought to be local.

One witness, named as Uddha Bahadur Gurung, described how the river had suddenly swollen with water and turned into a lethal surge.

"There was nothing unusual. People were enjoying picnics, some were relaxing in the hot spring pools by the river and others working," he told the Kathmandu Post.

"Out of nowhere came this swelling dark murky water with debris, sweeping away many people."

Sniffer dogs have been sent 200 kilometres from the capital Kathmandu to search for bodies along the banks of the river, which has now subsided, while police and army personnel hunted for survivors.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattari broke off from key political negotiations over forming a new government to visit Kharapani village, which was washed away by the flood.

The 8,091-metre Mount Annapurna attracts thousands of trekkers, both local and foreign, each year as well as day-trippers who enjoy picnics on the banks of the Seti river.

The mountain is considered both technically difficult and avalanche-prone and has a much higher death rate among climbers than Everest, the world's highest peak.