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Massive landslide blocks mountain river in Nepal, forming lake that threatens to burst; 8 dead

A massive landslide killed at least eight people and blocked a mountain river in northern Nepal, causing the water to form a lake that threatens to burst and sweep several villages, officials said Saturday.

The death toll could still climb because many houses were buried under piles of rock and soil or submerged by the rising water, said police official Arun Chetri. The number of the missing could not be immediately determined, he said.

After an emergency meeting, the Home Ministry ordered the army to remove the blockade and release the water, and prepare for a disaster if the walls of the newly formed lake burst in the Sindhupalchowk area, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Katmandu. The water has already formed a lake 3 kilometers (2 miles) in length.

Gopal Parajuli, the chief government administrator in the area, said explosives were flown in by the army and will be used to release the water.

Rescuers were flown to the area and airlifted some of the injured villagers. There were at least 40 people injured and getting treatment.

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 a flash flood that swept several downstream villages.