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Sikkim quake: Death toll climbs to 116

Twenty more bodies were recovered in quake-hit Sikkim taking the toll in Sunday`s powerful 6.8 magnitude temblor to 116.



Mangan (Sikkim): Twenty more bodies were
recovered in quake-hit Sikkim taking the toll in Sunday`s
powerful 6.8 magnitude temblor to 116 which may go up further
with rescue teams still to reach about 15 affected remote
villages in North district.

While the toll rose from 53 to 73 in Sikkim, West Bengal
has reported 15 deaths, nine in Bihar, 11 in Nepal, seven
in Tibet and one in Bhutan.

Officials said rescue teams found six bodies in East
Sikkim and 14 in North as they managed to enter Dzongu from
Mangan, the headquarters of North Sikkim where the strong
quake was epicentred.
There is still no trace of 120 residents of Bay village
in North Sikkim, located between Lachung and Chungthang, three
days after the quake.

"We find no trace as yet of 120 people living in 14 huts
at Bay village as the area is totally devastated. There is a
lot of debris ... and the residents have gone missing,"
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team in-charge Nisith
Upadhyay told agency here.

"We are afraid some bodies may have been trapped under
the flattened houses as boulders are lying strewn all over,"
he added.

40 foreign tourists stranded in North Sikkim were
evacuated, a Union Home Ministry official said.

Defence forces and other agencies struggled hard to clear
mud, rocks and boulders blocking roads to reach the affected
areas.

In Lalchung, a seriously injured bus passenger was
rescued in an army helicopter in a daring operation as
there was no place to land.

Two Brigadiers jumped down nearly seven to 10 feet from
the chopper to make space for the passenger who was helped
into the hovering aircraft.

North district alone accounted for 50 deaths, while 18
people died in East district, four in West and one in South
district. Over 300 people were injured, the sources said.

Rescue teams which include personnel of the army, NDRF
and local people would have to clear at least 30 to 40 major
roads blocks created by debris of landslides to reach about 15
major villages.

Four NDRF teams have fanned out to quake-hit Lingu,
Sakyang, Pentong and Bay villages in North Sikkim which
have been rendered almost inaccessible after the quake.

According to S R Bhutia, Deputy Director of Horticultural
Society of Sikkim, who led the four teams, "we haven`t found
any person in the village. We are searching for them."
Meanwhile, a flash flood at Lachung Chu river has posed a
threat of fresh landslides at Lachung, one of the worst-hit by
the quake, according to a Geological Survey of India officer.

"The flash flood will loosen the soil and may trigger
fresh landslides in the area," the GSI`s Sikkim zone officer
said.

In Gangtok, Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said the
loss from the devastating quake was estimated to be around
Rs one lakh crore and sought a special relief package from the
Centre towards rehabilitation work.

He said it would take another two to three days to reach
all the remote villages of North Sikkim. "Nine villages are
still totally inaccessible in that area," he said.

Home Minister P Chidambaram will visit the quake-hit
areas tomorrow and take stock of the relief and rescue work.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi today made an
aerial survey of North Sikkim besides visiting an affected
village and a hospital.

Accompanied by Sikkim Chief Minister, he landed at the
army helipad in Libing near Gangtok. He then visited Lumsey, a
residential pocket and also interacted with injured at the
Central Referral Hospital, Manipal.

"We have no idea of the condition in villages like
Sakyong-Pentong, Bey which were in forested areas beyond
Dzongu," a senior official said in Mangan.

The rescue operation was also hampered by intermittent
rains, he said.

Army officials said a 8-10 km stretch at Tung, which is
16 km off Mangan, had caved in impeding rescue operators from
reaching worst-hit Chungthang.

Chamling expressed his gratitude to the Centre and the
Army for their prompt action in rescue and relief operations
and restoration of road commutation on National Highway 31?A?.

The chief minister said barring North Sikkim, tourists
can visit any part of the state during the upcoming tourist
season beginning from October.

PTI

From Zee News

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