3rd LD Writethru: Death toll rises to eight, over 300 out of contact in landslide in Nepal

3rd LD Writethru: Death toll rises to eight, over 300 out of contact in landslide in Nepal

KATHMANDU, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- The death toll in Nepal's massive landslide has risen to eight, while over 300 people remain out of contact, almost 10 hours after the disaster happened, locals and police said.

"It has been confirmed that the death toll from the landslide has reached eight," Ram Nagarkoti, a villager who is offering assistance to the rescue operation, told Xinhua over phone. Police deployed at the incident site has also confirmed the figure.

Nagarkoti also said 16 other people that had been trapped under the mud were rescued alive.

"Of the rescued injured, the condition of five is critical and we are trying to send them to Kathmandu for urgent treatment," a police personnel said by phone.

Locals and security personnel said over 300 villagers are still out of the contact, increasing speculation that the death toll might go higher.

"The whereabouts of more than 300 people have not been ascertained," said a local politician, Ramji Pradhan, "It's not certain if they have fled away for safety or have been trapped under the mud."

The landslide, caused by continual rain, hit Sindupalchowk district in Nepal's eastern hilly region at around 2 a.m. early Saturday morning, affecting more than eight villages nearby.

Local authorities has announced high alert while locals are being evacuated to safer places.

Meanwhile, minor mudslides are still occurring at some of the places, sources from the incident site told Xinhua.

"Such a fall of lands, mud and rocks still occurring at around one dozen places has been adding to the suffering and fear of the locals who are already grief-stricken," Ram Nagarkoti, a villager, told Xinhua over phone.

Nepal's local media said that as much as 100 houses were swept away after the water level of Sunkoshi River increased rapidly following the blockage created by the landslide, while local administration offices in the region earlier said that the Araniko Highway, one of the shortest and busiest routes that connects Nepal with China's Tibet, has also been buried.

Blocked water in the river has also been gushing in the upstream areas of the river, adding fear that the pool created by the water blockage could burst at any time.

Locals fear that once the pool goes burst, it will destroy a huge stretch of the Araniko Highway, more than four villages and two hydropower projects.

Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) to take measures to release the blocked water from the Sunkoshi River and to ensure safety among the villagers and nearby residents.

In a bid to release the accumulated water in Sunkoshi River, MoHA announced that the government has decided to dispatch a team of the Nepalese Army for a controlled blast.

"A team of Army personnel has been deployed to release the water from the pool created in Sunkoshi River by using a controlled blast, as other options seem unfeasible due to the massive mud blocking the river and the geography of the place," a high level official at the ministry told Xinhua, requesting anonymity.

As many as 300 rescuers from the country's Army, Armed Police Force and police, as well as locals and people from nearby areas are carrying out the rescue efforts, sources from the crash site said.