Quake toll 92; 3,000 people rescued in Sikkim

Digging through landslide debris, troops and relief teams are scrambling to rescue victims of the Sikkim earthquake.

Mangan: More than 3,000 people were
rescued in quake-hit areas of Sikkim by defence forces which
scrambled hard to clear debris of collapsed structures and
landslides as the death toll in Sunday`s powerful temblor shot
up to 92, including 53 in the Himalayan state.

Of the 53, 36 people died in the districts of North
Sikkim, 12 in East Sikkim, four in West Sikkim and one in
South Sikkim, a Relief Control Room official said in Gangtok.

The National Highway 31-A from Mangan to Gangtok, 65 km
from here, was closed due to blockades caused by heavy
landslides but an alternative road was reopened to help rescue
teams reach the worst-affected areas.

"If there is another tremor, my house will collapse.
So we are waiting out in the open," said 74-year-old Dengji
Sherpa surrounded by his family and villagers at Lachan.

Some others were seen trying to retrieve household goods
from the debris.

The toll in Sunday`s 6.8 magnitude strong earthquake
has mounted to 92. Besides 53 in Sikkim, the toll has gone up
to 12 in West Bengal, nine in Bihar and 11 in Nepal. There was
no change in yesterday`s figure of seven deaths in Tibet.

As aftershocks continued, people were seen squatting on
roadsides, public places and near temples.

Using helicopters, heavy lift transport aircraft and
infantry troops, defence forces rescued more than 3000 people
in the quake-hit areas of Sikkim and intensified efforts to
extricate people trapped under the debris of collapsed
structures.

IAF has airlifted more than 500 troops there, including
the medical and engineering teams and is conducting sorties of
heavy lift transport aircraft and choppers from Delhi,
Chandigarh, Kolkata and Bagdogra to ferry troops and
ensure supply of medicines and food.

"There are eight to 13 helicopters which have been
pressed into service in conjunction with the Air Force. 35
heavy engineering plant equipments have been deployed to
restore roads and communication lines," Deputy Director
General of Military Operations Brigadier Ranbir Singh said in
New Delhi.

Rescue efforts covering 62 villages and 20 medical
centers have been set wherein over 370 people have been
treated and 8 relief centres have been established where over
2700 people have been provided shelter.

On rescue efforts in Mangan, epicentre of the quake, he
said, "281 troops have reached Mangan, including four medical
and two engineering teams. A relief camp has been established
there and communication teams are working to establish
telephone lines."

20 medical centres have been set up in the quake-affected
areas in Sikkim and 11 cook houses to provide relief.

A bus carrying 22 people which went missing in north
Sikkim since the temblor struck was yet to be traced.

A spokesman of the 17 Mountain Division said the bus
could be anywhere in a radius of 10 and 15 km along the quake
epicentre Mangan and Chungthang and that efforts have been
stepped up to track it.

With some improvement in weather, relief and rescue
operations by Army and National Disaster Response Force(NDRF)
personnel picked up in the afternoon.

"The biggest challenge now is to get the rescue teams to
the worst-affected areas," said Sikkim Information Minister C
B Karki.

For the second consecutive day, food packets and medicine
pouches were airdropped in inaccessible areas of the mountain
state and round-the-clock work is on to clear debris and open
roads still blocked due to quake-triggered landslides.

District collectors are overseeing the work.

The earthquake has left a trail of devastation cracking
roads, damaging houses and other structures, uprooting mobile
phone towers and snapping communication and power lines.

Power and telephone lines have been restored in Gangtok.

But the fringe areas of the town are still without power and
are cut off from the rest of the world.

IAF has also flown sorties of AN-32 aircraft from Jorhat
and Delhi and have airlifted around 4.5 tonnes of medicines,
Principal Director Operation (Transport and Helicopters) Air
Commodore A Raghvendra said.

"So far we have conducted 16 sorties of transport
aircraft, 18 helicopter sorties and have airlifted 23 tonnes
of load and 500 personnel to Bagdogra," he said.

A senior Army officer said that in next few days, the
operations would concentrate on opening other major roads in
the state including Nathu La and in Gangtok which have been
affected by landslides.

At Lachung, a remote area, three injured persons were
airlifted to Gangtok for treatment.

As rescue operations gained momentum, Union Home
Secretary RK Singh said the number of casualties may rise
as relief workers reach far-flung quake-hit villages.

Sikkim DGP Jasbeer Singh said information about several
places in North Sikkim was still sketchy as there was no or
little connectivity with roads blocked and communication
lines snapped.

"We are getting a very sketchy picture about Chungthang,
Lachun and Lachen. The casualty figure is ikely to increase
after we get access to these areas and find out the extent of
damage," he said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday met her
Sikkim counterpart Pawan Kumar Chamling in Gangtok and offered
him all assistance to meet the situation arising out of
Sunday`s quake.

"Sikkim is our neighbouring state and we stand by the
people of Sikkim at this hour of crisis with all sorts of
assistance to help them tide over the situation," Banerjee
told reporters after the meeting.

PTI

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