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17 die in flood, landslides

Gangtok, Sept. 22: At least 17 persons, including two Border Roads Organisation officials and their wives, were killed in Sikkim yesterday as three days of incessant rain triggered flash floods and landslides in the state’s north.

Several others were missing, among them an Indo-Tibetan Border Police assistant sub-inspector and his family.

At Rangma Range in North Sikkim’s Chungthang, 14 persons staying at a BRO camp died in flash floods caused by a cloudburst yesterday. Those who died were two BRO supervisors and their wives, two junior engineers and eight labourers.

The BRO personnel and the labourers, who were repairing a landslide-ravaged highway, had returned to the camp when the flash flood washed them away. The 14 bodies were recovered by rescue workers today, the district administration said. A search is on for two missing labourers.

The BRO, a military outfit, is responsible for constructions and repairs on NH31-A and the North Sikkim Highway.

A chowkidar at a BRO camp in Kalapathar, between Chungthang and Pegong, was killed yesterday in a landslide. In Mangan, in the same district, two contract labourers working for hydel power company Teesta Urja were killed in another landslide.

In another flash flood yesterday in Pegong, 96km from Gangtok, the ITBP officer, his wife and two children were feared to have been washed away. They are still missing. “ITBP SI Joginder Sharma and his family hail from Himachal Pradesh. They were staying at an ITBP camp. The flash flood in which they were washed away happened around 4pm,” ITBP commandant (Pegong) Pawan Mallik said, adding that heavy rain was disrupting rescue work.

Michael Das, a Met official in Gangtok, said the North district recorded “175mm of rainfall” in the past 24 hours. “Such heavy rain causes natural disasters.”

The road to Lachung from Chungthang has also been hit by landslides, while six houses along the Lachen river between Rangma and Chungthang were washed away. There have been reports of flash floods along the Lachung river.

Relief commissioner S.B.S. Bhaduria said the state government had declared an alert for establishments along riverbanks in Lachen, Lachung, Chungthang, Mangan, Dikchu, Singtam and Rangpo. “The situation is in control now. Two IAF helicopters, an army chopper and state government choppers have been deployed for rescue operations.”