A massive landslide in northeastern Nepal left at least eight people dead and dozens missing yesterday, burying a hydropower plant and putting several villages at risk of flash floods due to debris blocking a major river, officials said.
The landslide struck in the early hours, burying two dozen homes before dumping mud and stones into the Sunkoshi river, northeast of the capital Kathmandu, an official in the prime minister's office told AFP.
"We are trying to find a way to release the blocked water safely," said Prakash Adhikari, press adviser to the prime minister.
The debris has created a lake measuring at least three kilometres by 300 metres and already flooded a 2.6-megawatt hydropower plant on the river according to Himal Hydro, which built the project.
Officials scrambled to clear the river, fearing that two more power stations downstream could be damaged if the water level kept rising.
A police official at the scene of the disaster said electricity lines had snapped, leaving hundreds without power.
The government has declared the area a "flood crisis zone" and ordered the army to use explosives to try to clear the river.
A portion of the Arniko Highway, which connects the Himalayan nation with Tibet, has been closed, with concern mounting over risks to the Koshi barrage near the India-Nepal border, an official said.
Scores of people die every year from flooding and landslides during the monsoon season in Nepal.
At least 75 people were killed in separate incidents last year, when floods triggered by heavy rains struck homes in the country's remote hilly region and southern plains.
According to a team of US and Nepalese scientists, flash flooding which swept away an entire village in May 2012 originated with a minor rockslide that dammed a gorge and created a reservoir over several weeks.