400 houses inundated Kathmandu records highest rainfall in last 13 years


Sudden heavy downpour that began from 2:00am and lasted approximately four hours last night wreaked havoc in the low lying areas on the banks of major rivers such as Bagmati and Bishnumati inside Kathmandu valley. Floods in there rivers have inundated nearly 400 houses and property worth millions has been damaged.

It was around 4:00am when Kanchana Nepali, a local level leader living in Tankeshwar of Kathmandu, suddenly woke up hearing panic calls from her neighbours, whose houses in the squatter settlement on the banks of the Bishnumati River were inundated after the swollen river started flowing over 20 feet tall embankments and gushed into the settlement.

Nepali, along with a couple of youths in the area, managed to help a few people who were struggling to find a safe place.

While the people were able to save themselves,they saw their mud and brick houses fill up with muddy water as some temporary houses were swept away by the swollen river. People also witnessed many buffaloes and their calves kept in slaughterhouses on the river banks swept away by the river.

"At that time I felt completely helpless as I heard people crying for help to save the lives of their loved ones trapped in the submerged houses. As more helping hands turned up, the rescue process gained momentum and possible human casualties were prevented," Nepali said.

Similar situations were witnessed in areas near the Bagmati, Bishnumati, Dhobikhola, Hanumante and Manohara rivers. Macchapokhari, Tankeshwar, Paropakar Kendra, Dallu, Teku, Tahachal, Balkhu, Guheshwari, Jorpati, Sankhamul, Thapathali, Ratopul, and Anamnagar were the worst affected areas with muddy water gushing into the unplanned urban settlements of these areas.

The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology said Tribhuvan International Airport recorded 121.5 millimetres of rain in the last 24 hours. This is regarded as 'very heavy' rainfall and categorised as hazardous with the potential to cause landslide and flooding.

Rainfall in the wee hours today was the highest single day precipitation in the last 13 years. Kathmandu had recorded single day rainfall of 84.3 mm on 12 September 2008.

Apart from heavy rainfall recorded at TIA, Sankhu recorded 101.2 mm rainfall, Sundarijal 88.2 mm, Budhanilkantha 78.6 mm, Babarmahal 79.6 mm, Nagarkot 122.8 mm and Godawari 25.4 mm. Rainfall between 25-50 mm is considered moderate, 50 to 100 mm is heavy and 100 + mm is considered very heavy rainfall.

Rainfall in high altitude areas of eastern, northern and western Kathmandu valley also contribute to flooding as water flows out of the valley through the southern gateway at Chovar.

Senior meteorologist Madan Lal Shrestha told THT that today's havoc was caused more by unplanned urban planning than by heavy rainfall.

"Unplanned urbanisation and encroachment of river basins are the two crucial two reasons behind all rain-induced disasters in Kathmandu valley." He said that Kathmandu valley's topography is such that it can face heavy rainfall time and again and it has its own system for handling rainfall, but the mushrooming man-made infrastructure works against the natural process.

Kathmandu had recorded the highest rainfall 540 mm in the monsoon of 1993, when the rivers of Kathmandu were less encroached. Meteorologist Shrestha said Kathmandu valley cannot handle even half the volume of the rainfall of today.

The inundation in Tankeshwor was caused due to the ongoing construction of a new bridge at Paropakar School.

The construction materials left at the pillars of the bridge contributed to accumulation of garbage and mud, which blocked the river flow diverting its course towards the human settlement.

Similar scenarios were witnessed in other places that were inundated today as the rivers entered settlements that had encroaching rivers.

Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Office reported that 400 households were inundated while property worth millions was damaged. Authorities are yet to collect data of the total loss. The Meteorological Forecasting Division has also urged Kathmanduties to remain alert for the next two days as chances of similar rainfall are still high.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 7 2021, of The Himalayan Times.