Death Toll Could Hit 60 In Nepal Flash Flood

Rescuers searching Nepal's central Annapurna region after severe flash flooding said Sunday there was virtually no hope of finding survivors and as many as 60 could be dead.

The Seti burst its banks near the city of Pokhara, a popular tourist hub, on Saturday, sweeping away an entire village

POKHARA, Nepal -- Rescuers searching Nepal's central Annapurna region after severe flash flooding said Sunday there was virtually no hope of finding survivors and as many as 60 could be dead.

The bodies of 15 people were recovered after the River Seti burst its banks near the city of Pokhara on Saturday, sweeping away an entire village in the popular tourist destination.

District police superintendent Sailesh Thapa said 43 people were still missing, including three Ukrainian tourists.

He said, "So far, 12 of the 15 bodies have been identified. An excavator has reached the worst affected areas and is clearing the mud. We have a list of another 43 people who have gone missing. Their chances of survival are almost zero."

Sniffer dogs have been sent 125 miles (200 km) from the capital to search for bodies along the banks of the river, which has now subsided, while police and army personnel hunted for survivors.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattari broke off from key political negotiations over forming a new government to visit Kharapani village, which was washed away by the flood.

Bishwadeep Pandey, personal secretary to the premier, said, "He has instructed the authorities to bring 20 excavators so that the dead bodies of those who have been buried by the floods can be recovered. The prime minister has also committed the government to provide expenses for the last rites to family members of those who died."

A landslide caused by days of heavy rain blocked the Seti near its origin in the snow fields and glaciers of the Himalayas, Nepalese Army spokesman Ramindra Chhetri said.

The 26,545 feet Mount Annapurna attracts thousands of trekkers, both local and foreign, each year as well as day-trippers who enjoy picnics on the banks of the Seti river.