By Binaj Gurubacharya, AP
KATHMANDU, Nepal–A landslide triggered by heavy rainfall buried six villages in Nepal’s mountainous northeast, and at least 21 people sleeping in the homes are believed to have been killed, officials said Thursday.
The landslide hit during the night in Taplejung district, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of the capital, Kathmandu, said government administrator Surendra Bhattarai.
At least 21 people are feared to have died and several are missing, but details are sketchy because of the remoteness of the area.
The nearest town is at least five hours’ away on foot when the weather is good, but getting to the site was taking much longer on Thursday because of rains and fog that prevented a rescue helicopter from landing, said Home Ministry official Laxmi Dhakal in Kathmandu.
There are no government offices or police stations in the area.
Landslides are common in mountainous Nepal during the rainy monsoon season, which began in June and ends in September.
The Himalayan nation is still recovering from earthquakes in April and May that killed more than 8,700 people and caused massive damage, with many of the roads cut off by landslides.
Meanwhile, the government announced Thursday it would hire international experts to study trekking routes in the mountains of Nepal to see if they are safe for hikers to return.
Nineteen people were killed and scores injured in an avalanche at Mount Everest base camp triggered by the April 25 quake. Also, the trails around the Langtang valley in northern Nepal were completely damaged and an entire village buried by a landslide and avalanche set off by the earthquake.
Tens of thousands of foreigners come to Nepal every year to trek on the foothills of the Himalayan peaks. The next trekking season starts in September.