Stranded tourists return to Gangtok

Bridge collapse makes 300 halt in north Sikkim village overnight

By Our Correspondent in Gangtok
  • Published 19.05.16
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The Gurudongmar lake in north Sikkim that is a big draw for tourists

Gangtok, May 18: Around 300 tourists were stranded overnight on the way back to Gangtok from north Sikkim as a concrete bridge over a stream collapsed near the north Sikkim highway.

The tourists, many of them from Bengal and who had gone to Yumthang valley and Gurudongmar lake, returned to Gangtok this evening after local police and villagers built a tacky log bridge over the stream and arranged for transport.

From today, the police in Gangtok have stopped issuing permits for north Sikkim that is frequented by tourists who want to visit Lachen, Lachung, Yumthang valley and Gurudongmar lake. Permits to go to north Sikkim will be issued after the bridge is mended.

The bridge, part of the north Sikkim highway, has the North district headquarters, Mangan, on one side and Chungthang on the other.

"The Chungthang-Mangan road is closed as the bridge at Rel Kyong got washed away by the overflowing stream yesterday," said the North district collector Karma Bonpo.

Rel Kyong is around 75km from Gangtok.

A senior BRO official said it would take at least four days to open the road.

Yesterday around 4pm, the bridge over the Ri Chu stream collapsed when water rushed down and washed away part of the structure.

According to meteorologist G.N. Raha at the Gangtok Met office, areas near Mangan got around 38.mm rainfall yesterday afternoon.

District project officer Karma Dorji Wajalingpa said: "Last night, the stranded tourists were accommodated in home stays, the homes of residents, schools and hotels near Toong, a village.

Although the local police had managed to arrange for the return of the 300 tourists to Gangtok by this evening, around 40 of them stayed back with plans to see Lachen and Lachung.

From Chungthang, tourists either visit Lachen and continue towards Gurudongmar lake or they proceed to Lachung and go to see Yumthang valley.

Many tour operators sent their vehicles from Gangtok today to pick up their respective guests.

"By the time we received the information yesterday evening, it was too late to send vehicles. We sent cars this morning," said tour operator Gagan Rai.

Snehamoy Chatterjee and his wife Kakoli from Thakurpukur in Calcutta said initially they were worried after they came to know that the road had been closed. They had to stay in the house of a villager at Toong. "We never thought that we would spend a night in a rural hamlet in north Sikkim. The experience was good and we enjoyed a delicious dinner, especially a local butter tea called suja," Kakoli said.

Partha Saha from Malda said the villagers had helped the tourists. "They welcomed us and gave us dinner and shelter. They refused to take any money in return. The villagers won our hearts with their kindness."

A couple from Madhya Pradesh who had booked a two-day trip to North Sikkim, however, sounded disappointed. "We had a desire to see Yumthang valley but now, we will head to Namchi in South Sikkim," said Sajan Oberoi who came with his wife Nandita.