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Landslide blocks Nepal river; 6 people die

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A massive landslide blocked a mountain river in northern Nepal and caused the water to form a lake that threatens to burst and sweep several villages, officials said Saturday.

Rescuers have pulled out six bodies, but the death toll could be higher as many houses were buried by the landslide or submerged by the rising water, said police official Arun Chetri.

The exact number of people still missing could not be determined, he said.

The immediate threat is flash floods in the Sindhupalchowk area, which is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Katmandu. The water has already formed a lake 3 kilometers (2 miles) in length.

An emergency meeting at the Home Ministry has ordered the army to help remove the blockade and release the water, and prepare for a disaster if the walls of the newly formed lake burst.

Army helicopters with rescuers have been flown to the area, airlifting some of the injured villagers to hospitals. Rainfall has stopped and weather conditions improved.

The Arniko highway, that connects Nepal to Tibet, has been closed and villagers ordered to move to higher grounds.

Telephone and electricity lines were disrupted but radio stations have been airing the warnings and police using loudspeakers, officials said.

Landslides are common in mostly mountainous Nepal during the monsoon rainy season, which runs from June through September.

A similar landslide in May 2012 killed at least 26 people when an avalanche blocked the Seti river in northwest Nepal. The walls burst causing flash flood that sept several downstream villages.

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