EDITORIAL: Flood havoc

Natural disasters like flooding and landslides are inevitable and we should be prepared for impending disasters

Incessant rain and landslides have killed over 50 persons and dozens are missing in various parts of the country, especially the Terai. The calamity caused huge loss of human lives and property particularly in Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Dang and Banke districts. There is, therefore, urgent need to provide immediate relief to those affected by the floods and landslides in these districts and rescue people trapped or in danger. Around 80 per cent of the flood-affected areas have been inundated. Therefore, helicopters could not reach the areas where relief was urgently needed. The airport in Biratnagar and several other places also are inundated, and they were closed halting flights and making it difficult to provide the much needed relief. Furthermore, adverse weather conditions have been obstructing rescue and relief operations. However, rescue teams are on the standby to provide help and relief as soon as they can. The victims also need to be moved to safer places as well as provided drinking water, food and shelter.

The security agencies, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and Nepali Army have been mobilized with the priority to save human lives. The civil society has also been urged to participate in the relief and rescue operations without further delay.  If they are unable to do so then it is highly likely that more people would die and also lose their property. It looks like the weather will not improve for a few more days causing flooding of the rivers on a massive scale. The government has also requested India through its Ambassador in Kathmandu to open all the gates of the Koshi Barrage as the level of water in the river has reached alarming levels posing further threats to human lives and property. All the chief district officers in the affected districts have been told to provide immediate relief and rescue and move the people to safer places. Meanwhile, vital infrastructures like bridges have been damaged by the floods. The bridges were not built to last and thus many of them have been swept away. The Gachhiya bridge of Itahari and Bagmati Bridge in Sarlahi are on the verge of collapsing. Collection of sand from the river beds has made these and many other bridges unsafe.  Many parts of the country are now cut off in the absence of these necessary infrastructures making it challenging to carry out the much needed relief and rescue works.

Now those areas which are most vulnerable need to be identified by the concerned ministers and bureaucrats so that they would be able to take the required precautionary measures which are now seen glaringly lacking. The government should always stay prepared because the country is prone to floods and landslides every year. Yet it has done little to cope with these natural calamities.  If the government made preparations in advance of the monsoon than the damage caused by floods and landslips could be minimized. Most of those who have died were swept away by the floods due to the rising level of water in the rivers. In this hour of crisis all Nepalis are showing solidarity with their affected fellow countrymen. Natural disasters like flooding and landslides are inevitable given the terrain of the country and we should be prepared for impending disasters.

Short-circuit threat

The Metropolitan Police Office has said that a majority of fires are caused by short-circuits in the Kathmandu Valley. As per the annual statistics of fiscal 2016/17 over 40 percent of the fire incidents occurred due to short-circuits. Records show that out of the total 268 incidents of fire 113 were triggered by short-circuits. Fire from the kitchen, poor handling of matches and lighter, electric short in vehicles and poor handling of oil-fed lamps are said to be the major causes of fire incidents. The deadliest fire incident occurred at Gokarneshwor Municipality-1 where 45 cows were killed in June.

Short-circuit, overheating of electric appliances, fluctuating voltage and electric spark, sudden resumption of power after power outage and poor handling of cooking gas are major sources of short-circuit. Poor-wiring in households is also to blame for short-circuit. It is advised to unplug the cable and switch off the button and cooking gas to be safe from fire accident. Some cases of fire or short-circuit have occurred because of children who do not know the best ways to handle electrical items and inflammable gas and lighters. Fire is the fourth largest fatal disaster after epidemic, floods and landslides.