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Sikkim Floods: Death Toll Rises To 26, Over 140 Still Missing

Nearly 142 people were missing while 26 bodies have been recovered so far after flood occurred in North Sikkim, informed the officials.

Edited By : Saurav Gupta | Updated: Oct 7, 2023 22:18 IST
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sikkim flood

New Delhi: Nearly 142 people were missing while 26 bodies have been recovered so far after flood occurred in North Sikkim, informed the officials on Saturday.

A Glacial Lake Outburst in South Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim on the night of 03-04 Oct caused a devastating flood in the North Eastern State of Sikkim.

The level of water in the Teesta River increased by about 50-60 feet in height which caused calamitous floods downstream. Large scale damage to infrastructure, property and loss of human lives have been reported.

As per the state government estimate, a total of 142 persons are missing, out of which 26 bodies have been recovered so far. The exact assessment of the damage is yet to be corroborated due to the inclement weather and incessant rains.

Informing about the rescue operation, officials privy to the development said, “Indian Army deployed in the area has also been affected with some of its camps along the Teesta River bank being damaged/ washed away. A vehicle parking area at Burdang near Singtam was affected by the flash flood and 23 soldiers and 39 vehicles that were taking a temporary overnight transit halt have been submerged in silt or swept away.”

At the incident site, a significant amount of silt and mud, reaching heights of 30-40 feet, has accumulated, burying most of the vehicles underneath. A massive Search and Rescue mission was promptly initiated by a collaborative effort involving the Indian Army, BRO, NDRF, State Disaster Relief Teams, Para Military Forces, Police, Civil Administration, and the local population of Sikkim and North Bengal.

On the evening of October 4th, a soldier was rescued by villagers approximately 18 km downstream of Burdang, and the individual is currently in stable condition under medical care.

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To date, a total of 26 bodies have been recovered from various areas along the river in North Bengal, with four bodies handed over by Bangladesh Border Forces. Out of the 26 recovered bodies, eight have been positively identified as Indian Army soldiers. The last rites of Naik Bimal Oraon from Alipurduar were conducted on October 6th, 2023, with full military honors. The mortal remains of four soldiers are being transported to their hometowns on October 7th for their last rites in the presence of family members.

Post-mortem examinations are underway for two mortal remains, while the search operation for the remaining 14 soldiers is ongoing. Bulldozers and heavy equipment have been deployed to excavate the Burdang incident site. Since October 6th, 2023, radar systems (Leo Life Detector Radar, REECO Radar) and Army Dogs have been employed. To date, 15 vehicles out of the 39 missing have been recovered. Some ammunition, explosives, and Army stores from various camps have been reported along the downstream riverbanks. Indian Army has issued advisories through civil administration and deployed lookout teams, along with State Police, to alert locals about reporting sightings of such items. Ammunition experts have been tasked with safely disposing of the explosives recovered.

National Highway 10 (NH 10), the vital lifeline of Sikkim, has sustained substantial damage to the road surface and several bridges across the Teesta River. Efforts to reopen and widen the road stretch between Rangpo and Singtam are in progress.

Alternate routes to Gangtok are accessible via East Sikkim, while routes to West and South Sikkim remain open. However, in North Sikkim, roads beyond Mangan are currently cut off. Lt Gen RP Kalita, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, along with Lt Gen VPS Kaushik, GOC Trishakti Corps, conducted an aerial survey on October 6th, 2023, to assess the extent of damage and plan for relief efforts. The Director General of BRO, in conjunction with Indian Army Engineers, NHIDCL, and State Government officials, is evaluating the damage and conducting surveys to restore road connectivity. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to establish a footbridge connection to Chungthang. Indian Army and Indian Air Force helicopters are conducting emergency supply and evacuation missions, although inclement weather and incessant rains have posed challenges to aerial operations.

An estimated 1500 tourists are believed to be stranded in the Lachung and Lachen valleys in North Sikkim. Indian Army, in collaboration with local authorities, is providing assistance to stranded tourists and locals by offering food, medical aid, and satellite-based telephone connectivity.

Teams have compiled data on tourists residing in various hotels, with some being accommodated in Army camps. Special helplines have been established at Indian Army’s Trishakti Corps HQ, and family members of all stranded tourists have been notified about their well-being.

Despite the impact on Sikkim’s hinterland, the operational situation along the Line of Actual Control in Sikkim remains stable. The units responsible for Border Management Posture are maintaining a high state of readiness and optimal logistical support. The Indian Army, along with all agencies and Civil Administration, continues relentless Search & Rescue operations while also focusing on restoring communication and other infrastructure through well-coordinated efforts.

First published on: Oct 07, 2023 10:18 PM IST

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