24 July 2017
Larcha: a landslide destroys a key bridge in northern Nepal
Larcha is the location of a key bridge of the Araniko Highway in northern Nepal. This road extends northwards from Kathmandu to Tatopani, a crossing point into Tibet. For many years this was the only road north into Tibet and on to China, and as such it was a key strategic highway. In recent years a second crossing point has been built, and the importance of the Araniko Highway has declined, not least because of the extensive damage caused to this area in the 2015 earthquake. This area of Sindhupalchok was devastated by landslides, which of course reactivate with every monsoon.
Several news reports this morning suggest that heavy rainfall yesterday (Sunday 23rd July) triggered multiple landslides along the Araniko Highway. At Larcha, a slide has destroyed the bridge that crosses the Bhotekoshi River. The most detailed report is in the Kathmandu Post:
A motorable bridge over Bhote Koshi River along the Araniko Highway in Larcha, Sindhupalchok district collapsed on Sunday due to a landslide triggered by the incessant rain, blocking the only highway to Tatopani … According to a local eyewitness, Dupchhiring Sherpa, the landslide occurred with a loud explosion at around 8:30 last evening. “The loud noise of landslide followed a bright flash of lightning,” he said, “The landmass fell on the middle of the bridge and blocked Bhotekoshi River for some time.”
The same news report has an image of the aftermath of the landslide:
For reference, this is what the bridge looked like prior to the earthquake (image via Nirmal Raj Joshi):
This area was extensively studied by Katie Oven in the PhD that I supervised. The thesis is online (though the site was down as I wrote this). Katie noted that Larcha has suffered serious landslides in the past, most notably a serious debris flow in 1996 that killed over 50 people.