Floods, landslides kill 23 in Nepal, hundreds stranded
The floods, this year, have come at a time when the country is already battling the COVID-19 crisis and is looking at a possible return of the locust swarms
As many as 23 people were killed and thousands were displaced in the heavy rains that triggered flash floods and landslides in western Nepal.
Nine people were killed and more than 30 are missing from a district, Myagd, located 200 km (125 miles) northwest of the capital Kathmandu, where several houses were ravaged on Friday, district administrator Gyan Nath Dhakal told media outlets.
"The toll is expected to increase as rescuers had just reached the remote site to look for victims," Dhakal said, adding that 50 people had been moved to safety using helicopters.
Similar numbers continue to trickle in from various other districts with officials putting out helicopters for search-and-rescued operations. Landslides and flash floods are common occurrences in mountainous Nepal during monsoon every year.
The floods, this year, have come at a time when the country is already battling the COVID-19 crisis.
Health experts have said that the country is veering towards a major health crisis with the government reducing the sample collection and daily testing range. The country recorded only 118 new cases of the coronavirus infection on Friday and the nationwide COVID-19 tally stands at 16,649.
Experts, however, opine that the low numbers are due to the low testing rates and not an indicator how well the virus has been controlled in the state. "No case will be detected if you stopped the tests," Dr Mingmar Gyelgen Sherpa, former director general at the Department of Health Services, told the Kathmandu Post. "If the government is in a hurry to declare the country free of coronavirus, it could stop the tests, but that doesn’t mean this will address the risk."
Locusts may return
In addition to the apparent threat of the virus and the current floods, now experts from the country say that there is a possibility that locusts which left the country last week, could return in the next week.
"With the current wind direction and speed, it could take a minimum of three-four days for swarms to arrive in Nepal," said Ram Krishna Subedi, senior plant protection officer at the Plant Quarantine and Pesticide Management Centre under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development
The southwesterly wind is likely to push locusts that are presently in Rajasthan towards Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and subsequently into Nepal, experts said.