Unseasonal rain dampens Dashain, disrupts travel

Last week, Ram Chandra Bagale had reached his ancestral village in Lamjung from Kathmandu to celebrate Dashain with his wife Sharmila and their one-year-old son Prabhat after a gap of four years.

For three years, he was confined to the Capital owing to the Covid pandemic, and last year, he could not make it because his wife had just given birth and she was not in a condition to travel.

This year, Bagale had also planned to visit his in-laws on Vijaya Dashami on Wednesday but unseasonal rains played spoilsport. After receiving tika from his father and mother, the Bagales were confined to their home all day.

“This was the worst Dashain I ever experienced,” said Bagale, 35, who works for an insurance company in Kamalpokhari, Kathmandu.

The next day, Bagale visited the in-laws at Yampaphant in Tanahun district on a motorbike from his home at Suryapal in Madhyanepal Municipality crossing several swollen streams on the way. Although he had planned to attend his office in Kathmandu on Friday, he got stuck in the village due to the rains.

“I could not return to the Capital as the Prithvi Highway was disrupted at various places by landslides and floods,” he said.

Like the Bagales, hundreds of people across the country could not celebrate this Dashain with their families and relatives due to the rains that started on Wednesday and continued until Friday. Many Dashain travelers were stuck on the way for several hours as the roads were blocked. Likewise, many others were not able to return to their work in the Capital on time.

According to the Kathmandu Valley Traffic Police Office, over 2 million people had left the Valley to celebrate Dashain this year.

Highways and feeder roads across the country have been obstructed in numerous places due to landslides and floods.

“It seems most of those who went to their villages could not celebrate Dashain as per their plans, and their journeys back to Kathmandu and other towns have been difficult due to the rains,” said Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Mira Chaudhari, the head of the traffic police division in the Valley.

According to the Department of Roads, 28 highways across the country saw obstructions, and other roads were obstructed in 128 places as of Friday afternoon.

“Many of our staff are on festive leave, but we have been working to reopen the roads with the limited human resources available,” said Arjun Jung Thapa, director general of the Department of Roads.

The Prithvi Highway saw obstructions at Galchhi, Naubise, Satrakilo and Mauri Khola, while the Mugling-Narayanghat road saw blockages in various places until Friday morning.

On Thursday, the chief district officer of Dhading, Krishna Prasad Lamsal, had issued a public notice requesting travelers to avoid the Prithvi Highway, the busiest road linking Kathmandu with the rest of the country.

Some of the newly elected local representatives had taken proactive steps to reopen the roads. On Thursday, Bhakta Bahadur Tamang, chairperson of Gajuri Village Municipality-6, had reached Gajuri with an excavator to clear the landslide debris along the Prithvi Highway.

“Until Thursday we saw road obstructions mostly in the eastern part of the country, but Friday onwards the incessant rains have damaged the roads mostly in the western part of the country such as Tulsipur, Dang, Surkhet, Dailekh and Kohalpur areas,” said Director General Thapa.

Bad weather affected not only the road travel but flights were canceled too.

“People would leave for the Capital and other towns soon after receiving tika at home, but this year people were forced to postpone their travel due to landslides,” said Prasant Acharya, director of Pokhara-based New Road Travel that operates tourist buses between Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Acharya said six of the passengers from Dumre in Tanahun who had booked tickets to Kathmandu missed their bus owing to a road blockage at Palungtar in Gorkha.

“Thirty foreigners who had booked bus tickets from Pokhara to Kathmandu canceled their travel plans Thursday due to the landslides along the road,” said Acharya. “They bought flight tickets but due to the bad weather they could not fly to Kathmandu and remain stuck in Pokhara.”

On Friday, meteorologists said rains could continue for another three days but they will be less intense. “There will be continuous rainfall until Sunday. The Sudurpaschim, Karnali and Lumbini provinces will see light to heavy rainfall, but the central and eastern regions will receive low to moderate rainfall,” said Binu Maharjan, meteorologist at the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology. “We request travelers to take necessary precautions.”

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