Cyclone havoc: roads blocked, rivers swollen in Sikkim

May 26th, 2009 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Gangtok, May 26 (IANS) With heavy downpours, landslides and blocked highways, the northeastern state of Sikkim Tuesday had little time to count the losses caused by the fierce Cyclone Aila, which has claimed at least 27 lives in neighbouring West Bengal.
The district headquarters of north and west Sikkim have been cut off from capital Gangtok as state highways leading to major towns are blocked because of landslides along the road.

People living close to swollen rivers are being evacuated after the cyclone, which hit a day earlier.

The tourism sector has been hard hit, with advance bookings being cancelled and tourists not being allowed to go to the popular destinations of Nathula and Tsongo Lake above Gangtok Tuesday morning.

Due to landslides, regular traffic along National Highway 31A that connects the Darjeeling district in West Bengal to Sikkim has been disrupted at many places. Rows of vehicles could be seen for hours along the highway Monday evening before the Border Roads Organisation cleared the road.

Tourist destinations in north Sikkim like Lachung and Lachen are also blocked. Many tourists were still stranded along the north Sikkim highway on Tuesday.

Paljor Lachungpa, the Travel Operators Association of Sikkim president, said advance bookings to north Sikkim have been kept on hold because of the bad state of the highways.

Lightning killed cattle in Baluakhani, Gangtok, in the morning and damaged the residential quarters of the Forest Guards. However, no human casualties were reported.

With the rivers beginning to swell, administration officials have helped frightened residents evacuate. The gates at dams controlling floodwaters have been opened. Eleven labourers working in a tunnel along the Rangpo river had died in a flash flood last month.

Heavy rainfall continues here with no roads dependable enough to travel. The authorities have cautioned against travelling along highways, especially at night.

Administration officials have announced that there is sufficient stock of essential commodities even if the NH-31A remains blocked for over a week.

Cyclone Aila battered coastal West Bengal and capital Kolkata Monday with high-speed winds uprooting trees, electricity poles and thatched homes. At least 27 people have been killed and 400,000 people affected.

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