Sikkim: Chopper sorties with relief suspended

Helicopter sorties with relief to earthquake-affected areas which resumed Sunday after a two-day gap were again suspended due to incessant rain on Monday.

Updated: Sep 26, 2011, 16:02 PM IST

Gangtok: Helicopter sorties with relief to earthquake-affected areas which resumed Sunday after a two-day gap were again suspended due to incessant rain on Monday.

A senior Army official said that nine Army helicopters were engaged yesterday in the relief operation dropping ration and evacuating stranded people from different parts of North Sikkim.

He said that on the state’s request, the Army has released 3,000 litres of kerosene to Chungthang and 2,000 litres of kerosene to Lachung.

The Army has also opened seven relief camps at Chungthang where most people living in villages surrounding the sub-divisional town have arrived.

Prem Subba, who came down from Thangu, which is beyond Lachen, said most of the residents have abandoned their houses fearing they might crumble anytime after suffering structural damage in the earthquake.

Sonam, also from Thangu, said most people were sleeping in tents at the camps.

Meena Rai and her entire family of five are also residing in the relief camp opened at the Gurudwara having come down from a nearby village.

Chungthang has also experienced a large influx of labourers who are not just employed with the hydel project here, but also those from road and other construction projects further north.

They have been trekking down to Chungthang for the last couple of days and are awaiting helicopter evacuation.

Despite many labourers having been evacuated, there are still around 400 of them stranded there, still desperately trying to get a ride back home in one of the choppers.

There has been a mass exodus of labourers also from places above Chungthang, as far north as Dombang where a road construction company is engaged in the construction of a road from Dombang to Gora La.

Balwant Rai and Sushil Singh, both from Benaras, said that the military and labour camp up there had been totally destroyed.

However, 200-odd labourers survived and managed to escape and take a three-day trek down to Chungthang. In many ways the Ground Zero of the devastating
earthquake, Chungthang is by far the worst affected town which has suffered a trail of devastation and destruction left by the earthquakes.

As many as 13 deaths have taken place there alone, many are missing and almost all houses and structures have been damaged.

With most structures rendered unsafe and residents still insecure about returning to even houses which have suffered only minor damage, most are still sleeping in the camps and open spaces, a week since the calamity.

The Chungthang SDM office has conducted a preliminary investigation of the damages in and around Chungthang though there has not been enough time for a detailed examination yet.

The preliminary report suggests that 90 houses in Chungthang have been totally damaged. The town has about 120 households. Of the 90 totally damaged houses, 25 are stated to be uninhabitable.

Though there is death and destruction everywhere, the sub-divisional office is functioning thanks to 12 sets of WLL phones and one satellite phone provided by the BSNL.

BDO Samdup Bhutia said, “our priority was to evacuate the injured and tourists followed by women and children and finally the elderly.”

A total of seven relief camps have been set up here by the administration which are managed with the help of local people.

A task force has also been set up comprising local panchayat members, district officials, officials from private companies, local people, the Army as well as other agencies aiding the relief and rehabilitation efforts.

PTI