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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 July 2024

Six dead in Sikkim flash floods; roads damaged, connectivity with tourist hotspots snaps

In October last year, due to the outburst of South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim and also the neighbouring district of Kalimpong in Bengal had suffered extensive damages

Avijit Sinha Siliguri Published 14.06.24, 05:03 AM
The stretch of a road damaged by a landslide triggered by incessant rainfall at Mangan in North Sikkim on Thursday

The stretch of a road damaged by a landslide triggered by incessant rainfall at Mangan in North Sikkim on Thursday -PTI Photo

Six persons died and several others were injured as the monsoonal downpour triggered landslides and caused flash floods in the northern parts of Sikkim on Wednesday night, the downpour and its impact bringing back memories of the disaster that struck the mountainous state eight months ago.

In October last year, due to the outburst of South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim and also the neighbouring district of Kalimpong in Bengal had suffered extensive damages.

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Over 100 people had then died in the natural disaster.

The impact of the weather, a source said, may not be as severe now as that of last October, but the situation — heavy rains in Sikkim as the southwest monsoon is active in the state and the sub-Himalayan Bengal — remains volatile as the regional Met office of Gangtok has hinted at further rainfall, which may lead to more landslides and flash floods in the next couple of days.

A road damaged by heavy rain in Mangan district at Sikkim on Thursday

A road damaged by heavy rain in Mangan district at Sikkim on Thursday

“Massive and devastating landslides have struck different areas around Mangan in north Sikkim because of the incessant rainfall,” said a source in the Mangan district administration.

“Due to the landslides, at least six people have died in Pakshep and Ambhitang and two others have been injured. A number of houses have been completely damaged. Also, roads have caved in or have been blocked by landslides. Relief and rescue operations have started,” the source added.

During last October’s flash flood, Sikkim’s Mangan district had also suffered
extensive damage. A number of bridges were swept away and stretches of roads were eroded away by the swollen Teesta.

“The Teesta had swept away a bridge at Sangkalang. Later, a suspension bridge was installed in its place. This new bridge, too, collapsed today (Thursday). Thus, connectivity with a number of locations, including Lachen, Lachung and Chungthang, has totally snapped because of this bridge collapse,” the source added.

Amid the landslides and the flash flood, around 1,500 tourists who had been to popular hotspots in north Sikkim, were stranded in hotels and other accommodations. Many of them are from Bengal.

The flash flood, which occurred in the Teesta and some other streams in the area, have also swept away electric poles.

Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay), who is in Arunachal Pradesh to attend the swearing-in ceremony of BJP leader Pema Khandu, asked the administration, police and officials of various departments to ensure a swift response to the devastation.

“Efforts are underway to provide every possible support to the victims and affected families, including recovery assistance, temporary settlement, and the provision of basic needs,” Golay said in a statement.

“The state government stands firmly with the victims of this unfortunate incident, pledging the utmost support to the bereaved families and all those affected and displaced by the landslides,” he said.

He will soon return to the state to personally supervise rescue and relief operations, sources said.

“There are plans to connect some of the areas by building log bridges with the help of the forest department,” the administrative source added.

Along with Mangan, the Teesta has also flooded certain areas downstream, including Teesta Bazar. It has also flooded and damaged roads and houses in parts of the neighbouring Bengal’s Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts. Direct connectivity between Darjeeling and Kalimpong has snapped since Thursday morning.

Later in the day, the district magistrate of Kalimpong issued an order to restrict the movement of vehicles along NH10, the principal highway that connects Sikkim and Kalimpong with Siliguri and the rest of the country.

According to administrative sources, three stretches, the approach near the Melli bridge, at Ravi Jhora and Likhu Veer, got damaged due to the rainfall.

“These stretches need repairs and thus, the restriction has been imposed,” said an official.

As a result, vehicles bound for Sikkim and Kalimpong from Siliguri and vice-versa will have to take detours via Algara, Lava and Gorubathan, and will have to travel an additional distance of 70 kilometres.

Weather alert

Weather experts, when contacted, said it rained 220mm in Mangan during the past 24 hours, that is, till Thursday morning.

“We have issued a red alert for Mangan as there is a forecast of very heavy rainfall during the next 24 hours. Also, an orange alert for heavy rainfall has been issued in the remaining six districts of Sikkim,” said one of them.

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