Kathmandu: Rescuers on Sunday found four more bodies buried under mud as the death toll from landslides and flooding in Nepal climbed to 89, sparking fears of a cholera outbreak.
Torrential rain last week triggered multiple landslides and flooding, stranding thousands of villagers and leaving a trail of death and destruction in the Himalayan nation.
The rains have damaged roads across the country`s western plains bordering India, forcing officials to use helicopters to rescue stranded people and deliver emergency supplies.
"We have found four more bodies today. We are still searching for 109 people missing," said home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.
As the weather cleared Sunday, improving visibility after three days of incessant rain, army officials ran helicopter sorties to evacuate some 20,000 people stranded in badly-hit western districts.
"We are concerned about a possible outbreak of cholera because of all the dead bodies and livestock lying underwater," Dhakal told AFP.
Cholera is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by the faeces of people infected with the disease, which can kill within hours if left untreated. It causes severe diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps.
"We are on alert to make sure people don`t consume contaminated water, now or after they return to their homes over the coming week," Dhakal said.
National disaster management chief Yadav Prasad Koirala told AFP that authorities had "mobilised health workers to set up camps and provide people with clean drinking water and dry food".
As water levels slowly recede, rescuers have started moving people from their damaged homes into temporary shelters, but large areas remain submerged, preventing helicopters from landing to let workers search for those still missing, Koirala said.Villagers in Surkhet, the worst-affected district, described their horror at being awoken by news that the nearby Bheri river was overflowing early Friday.
"My neighbours woke me up, I gathered my family and we just ran uphill to save ourselves... I didn`t even have time to cut my cattle loose so they could flee," farmer Prem Bahadur Pun told AFP by phone.
"By morning, our house was gone, the cattle was gone, my land was gone. I have lost everything," Pun said.
About 150 people from his village managed to escape to safety by running uphill, Pun said, but many others were not as lucky.
"So many people are missing... including one of my neighbours, his wife and two grandchildren," he said.
As the anxious villagers waited for help, many were already suffering from fever, though no symptoms of cholera had been observed yet, Pun said.
"No one (from the government) has come here yet. Some people are getting sick... We have some medicine, but what will we do when it runs out?"
The deaths come two weeks after the worst landslide in over a decade smashed into hamlets in the hilly northeast and killed 156 people.
Heavy rain in neighbouring India`s Uttarakhand state has claimed at least 24 lives since Friday, reviving memories of a deluge last year that killed more than 5,000 people in the same region.
Media reports Sunday said several districts in the northern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were also flooded after heavy rain near Himalayan rivers and the release of excess water from barrages in Nepal.
"Water has started to recede but problems persist on the Nepal side," the Times of India quoted Deepak Singhal, a senior administrative officer in Uttar Pradesh, as saying.
Hundreds die every year in floods and landslides during the monsoon season in South Asia.