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Flash flood pummels Lachung

Gangtok, June 6: A flash flood triggered by unabated rain for more than 24 hours has destroyed a dozen houses, a steel bridge and agricultural land at Lachung in North Sikkim.

According to the information provided by a local panchayat member who reached Gangtok last night, the destruction on Sunday evening was brought about by the Singring stream that cuts across the village.

“It had been raining heavily at Lachung since Saturday and there were several landslides in the area, disrupting road traffic and snapping telecommunication. Boulders and debris came rushing down the Singring stream with a huge flow of water at 7.30pm on Sunday. The stream is fed by the Chumzom lake,” said Pema Lachungpa, a Dzumsa (panchayat) member from Lachung.

Lachungpa arrived here last night along with tourists who had been left stranded 5km down Lachung since last Sunday. Around 200 visitors were stuck at Theeng along North Sikkim highway because of a rain-induced landslide.

The Chumzom lake is at 16,000 feet and is about 20km above Lachung.

A report prepared by the subdivisional magistrate of Chungthang said the flood had damaged a dozen buildings. Two double-storied concrete houses, two wooden houses with concrete foundation, a guesthouse of the fisheries department and two kutcha homes were swept away by the Singring.

The report also mentioned the destruction of five homes which were being constructed under the chief minister’s rural housing scheme as well as a steel bridge at Thaumche.

The flood also snapped water lines to 80 houses and washed away wooden bridges over the Singring stream.

Lachungpa said the flood had lasted for about three hours and agricultural land at Singring and Pharey in Lachung had also suffered damage.

“We had never seen such a deluge in our village before. The stream swallowed everything on its path. There were no casualties as people moved out of their homes when the stream started rising. The families displaced by the torrent have taken shelter in their relatives’ houses,” he said.

Lachung is 150km from the state capital.

Mangan MLA Tshering Wangdi Lepcha, under whose constituency Lachung falls, said the estimate of the damage was being drawn up. “We need to restore the water supply immediately and construct protective walls along the stream. The bridges destroyed in the flood also have to be rebuilt,” said the MLA.

Lepcha also said a transformer damaged by the September 18 earthquake at Lachung had to be replaced as the village was experiencing prolonged spells of power cut.

Michael Das, the assistant meteorologist in the India Meteorological Department office in Gangtok, said the flash flood was caused by incessant rain in a short period.

“A flash flood occurs when there is rainfall between 50mm and 100mm in an hour in the catchment area of a stream. The flood lasts for a few hours and abates along with the rain.”

Das said the showers Lachung had received on Saturday and Sunday could not be recorded as the rain gauge there had been damaged in the earthquake.

The tourists stuck in Lachung had left in 25 vehicles yesterday morning. They were transferred to other vehicles at Thimchu where a bridge had been washed away on Sunday. The passengers trekked through the debris of the bridge to board the vehicles.

Tourists left stranded at Thimchu on the Lachen-Chugthang road also returned to Gangtok. However, about 50 tourists preferred to stay back in Lachen till the road link improved.

“We had a harrowing time walking through the debris for nearly 300 metres to reach Thimchu where another set of vehicles was waiting for us. It was difficult to walk through the slush and climb the boulders. Some tourists have decided to stay back till the road is cleared,” said Anirban Hazra, a tourist from Santragachhi in Howrah, who reached here last evening.

A chief engineer of the Border Roads Organisation said it would take a few more days to restore the highway at Thimchu.

“A diversion from the damaged bridge for light vehicles could be completed at Thimchu only after a few more days,” said Col P.H. Reddy.