Sikkim quake survivors crawl to climb stretches

Hundreds of Sikkim quake survivors are trekking out of their cut-off villages, crawling sometimes to negotiate dangerous stretches.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2011, 18:53 PM IST

Tung (North Sikkim): With rescue teams facing
difficulties to reach some far-flung quake-hit areas in Sikkim,
hundreds of survivors are trekking out of their cut-off
villages, crawling sometimes to negotiate dangerous stretches.

Hundreds of villagers from inaccessible higher areas of
Lachung, Lachen and Chungthan have gathered here after an
arudos trek down and are being taken to safe places.
Army sources said hundreds of villagers reached Tung, 10
km from Chungthang, one of the worst-hit areas, and
many were still trekking down from remote areas of Lachen,
Lachung and Chungthang.

Karma Bhutia (30), who arrived from Lachen today after
trekking for two days, told PTI, "We panicked at fresh
landslides triggered by rain at Lachen on Wednesday night,
when huge boulders started hurtling down the hills.

"We first escaped to Guma and spent the night there and
next morning we started trekking through extremely difficult
terrains covered with debris," he said.

Bhutia spoke how some of the villagers had to crawl some
distances in spells since the wet soil tended to loosen and
which might cave in any moment if they walked on such
stretches.

Five days after the 6.8 magnitude quake shook Sikkim and
neighbouring areas, stranded people showed grit and
determination to sail through the tense and anxiety-filled
hours

22 engineers of a private construction firm have been
rescued and are being sent to Gangtok today.
Army sources said 22 engineers and technicians of Poddar
Construction, engaged by the Teesta Urja Project, were rescued
from Tung, five days after their bus was stranded during the
powerful tremor in Sikkim.

"Their bus was halted by a huge boulder and our men
rescued them from Tung yesterday. They will be sent to Gangtok
today," they said.

According to project manager of Poddar construction Bipul
Halder, "The situation is very bad. We were stranded and could
not come out of the bus. We had to sustain with the little
ration left with us."

Labourers returning to Gangtok from the Teesta Stage III
hydel project site at Chungthang in worst-hit North District
today claimed that 70 of their colleagues were still missing.

A group of labourers belonging to the Euphoria company,
one of several companies engaged by Teesta-Urja company which
is implementing the project, returned to Gangtok last evening.

They said there were around 5,000 people still at
Chungthang including labourers and project officials and that
there were many bodies still to be pulled out of the debris.

However, neither the North District administration nor
the Teesta-Urja company has confirmed the labourers` account.

The labourers said nearly all houses at Chungthang
were damaged and neither was there clean water to drink.

They said an effort was underway to locate a local
labourer who had gone missing near one of the tunnels at the
time of the earthquake.

"He had gone out to get milk for us,? the labourers
said adding while these labourers usually work in the tunnels,
they were fortunate not to be in the tunnels on September 18,
the day the earthquake struck, as they HAD a holiday on
account of festival.

"Had we been working in the tunnel, we would all have
been washed away," says one who hails from Kalimpong.

PTI