Thousands of people in northeastern Nepal have been displaced after a massive mudslide blocked the course of a river, killing at least eight people and causing flooding in nearby villages.
Eighteen people remain missing after an entire hill slid into the Sunkoshi River, burying nearby houses and creating an enormous mud dam in the river.
Army and private helicopters have been sent to the affected area, located east of the capital Kathmandu, to rescue trapped residents.
A state of emergency has been declared in the Sunkoshi River region, with Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam telling local media that 700 army and police personnel have been sent to the area to deal with the “grave” situation.
Officials in the affected district of Sindupalchowk said 5000 people had been displaced in villages and towns along the river, and that security personnel had built temporary shelters.
After the river’s rising waters began flooding nearby communities, the army used explosives to blast open the 100-metre wall of mud blocking its flow.
“Water has started flowing out gradually,” local reporter Saral Gurung said.
Neighbouring India and China have offered Nepal assistance.
The government said 40 people were injured, 14 of who were airlifted to Kathmandu hospitals. Four of them were in critical condition.
“My father, my two daughters and my wife – five of us are alive,” said Durgalal Shrestha, who lost eight members of his family.
“My brothers and their children are all dead. The world has disappeared under the landslide … The state did nothing to help. We called the 100 emergency number so many times,” he said.
The Sunkoshi, with its seven tributaries, flows into India from Nepal and is a popular destination for river rafting.
“I was asleep and then I heard a loud sound and there was mud sliding in through the window of the room I slept in,” said a Belgian tourist.
“I tried to save other two people in the house but I couldn’t.”