Gangtok, May 31: Tourists left stranded overnight on their way back from Nathu-la returned to Gangtok this morning after the BRO cleared the road blocked by a series of landslides.
The 2,500 tourists spent nearly 18 hours at army camps and homes of villagers in Kyongshala near the landslide spot, 20km from Gangtok.
The visitors praised the army and the people in Kyongshala for taking care of them throughout the night, providing food, administering oxygen to those who were suffering from respiratory trouble at 12,000ft and even arranging a cake to celebrate the birthday of a four-year-old.
A fresh batch of 400 vehicles with tourists left for Chhangu lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu-la after 11am today.
| Tourist vehicles parked on JN Marg near Kyongshala village on Thursday morning before leaving for Gangtok. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Among those stranded was Prosenjit Kundu from Calcutta. “This is our first experience of being left stranded because of a landslide. We thought we would have to spend the night in the vehicle but the army and the villagers were so kind to put us up. We were given not only good food but also places to sleep,” said 35-year-old Kundu as the car carrying him rolled past 2nd Mile checkpost.
“We have a train ticket to Calcutta this evening from New Jalpaiguri, we hope we will make it there,” he said.
Most tourists were relieved that they were rescued by the army but the Sahas from Gujarat were really happy to be at the camp: they could celebrate their four-year-old son’s birthday despite being held up in a remote mountainous pocket.
“It was all possible because of the army. We had plans to celebrate the birthday of my son Ayush Saha in Gangtok but it could not happen because we could not return. When the army jawans came to know that our plans were spoilt, they managed a cake for us and my son was able to celebrate his birthday. He was so happy,” mother Nisha Saha told The Telegraph.
The steady rain yesterday had delayed the army efforts to clear the debris from the road. The series of landslides that started at 3pm at 15th Mile continued till 8 at night.
Kundu said the jawans vacated their rooms for the tourists.
“The army provided us with warm blankets and food. The jawans vacated their rooms for the ailing and spent the night outside in the warmth of wood and diesel fires,” said Kundu. He also praised the villagers for sharing the little that they had with the visitors.
“We consider guests to be God. Above all, humanity is more important. It was our pleasure to help the tourists,” said Milan Chettri, a resident of Kyongshala.
The BRO cleared the debris on the highway this morning.
“We tried to clear the debris last night but it was not possible because of the falling boulders now and then. It took us almost two hours to clean the road,” BRO engineer R. Khulal.
The vehicles, which had taken permission on Wednesday to visit Nathu-la, were allowed to go to the border pass today.
“We ensured that all the stranded vehicles came down first. Cars going up were permitted only after 11am. A total of 400 vehicles headed for Chhangu and Nathu-la today,” said inspector Sabitri Pradhan posted at 2nd Mile checkpost.
The president of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, Luckendra Rasaily, said some vehicles had been sent to bring down the tourists. “Some cars had broken down and extra vehicles were needed,” said Rasaily.