Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Nepali villagers airlifted from flood-stricken homes

AFP , KATHMANDU

Helicopters ferried people to higher ground in flood-devastated western Nepal after rains left at least 31 people dead, 63 missing and displaced tens of thousands, officials and media said yesterday.

The government ordered local officials to accelerate rescue operations after the rains triggered massive landslides in the mountainous regions and flooding on the plains of west Nepal.

Army helicopters flying rescue missions carried stranded people away from floodwaters to safer areas, state-run TV showed.

Government spokesman Baman Prasad Neupane said Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who made an aerial tour of the area on Monday, had "directed the local administration in the flood- and landslide-affected areas to speed up rescue efforts."

He said rescuers were urgently trying to discover the fate of 63 people in a village in badly-hit Banke area in mid-western Nepal that has been cut off by floods.

He said the village inhabitants were missing but could not confirm the overall death tally of 31 reported in the media.

The worst flooding this year has been in Banke district, 510km west of Kathmandu, where 377mm fell over the weekend, local meteorological officials said.

"Some 40,000 people were displaced by the floods ... due to the incessant rainfall," said Banke chief district officer Narendra Raj Sharma.

Officials said that the waters were gradually receding as the rains stopped and India opened a dam bordering Nepal.

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