Nepal: Elephants deployed to rescue tourists from flooded safari park

A farm house is submerged by flood water in Saptari District, Nepal. Source: Reuters

ELEPHANTS were sent out to rescue hundreds of foreign tourists trapped in a flooded safari park in Nepal, according to Reuters.

The Rapti River in Sauraha overflowed, inundating hotels and restaurants while leaving over 600 tourists stranded. Officials said on Monday that the death toll from flash floods and landslides after four days of heavy rain rose to 70. At time of publication, the number is said to have risen to 91.

Sauraha, about 80km south of Kathmandu, is home to 605 greater one-horned rhinoceroses, or Indian rhinoceroses, and is popular with foreign tourists, including Indian and Chinese visitors, mainly for elephant rides and rhino-watching.

Suman Ghimire, chief of a group of Sauraha hotel owners, told Reuters: “Some 300 guests were rescued on elephant backs and tractor trailers to (nearby) Bharatpur yesterday and the rest will be taken to safer places today.”

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Tens of thousands of locals have been displaced as a result of the floods while heavy monsoon rains wreaked havoc on their homes. According to the Information and Communications Minister, over 60,000 houses were under water in the southern plains of Nepal.

“The situation is worrying as tens of thousands of people have been hit,” Basnet told Reuters.

According to Al Jazeera, the district of Terai, also ravaged in the floods, will greatly affect the region’s economy. “Some 80 percent of the crops have been damaged. It’s going to have a huge impact in the long run for the country,” the network’s correspondent said.

Nepal’s monsoon rains – which typically start in June and subside in September – are essential for the agriculture-dependent state, but can also result in major losses, property damage, and casualties.

Additional reporting by Reuters.