42 die in Indian quake, rains hamper relief workSeptember 19th, 2011 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS
Gangtok/New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) The death toll in an earthquake that ravaged Sikkim’s border with Nepal rose to 42 Monday amid fears that the toll could go up as rescuers searched for the dead and survivors.
“There is the possibility of the death toll rising,” Home Secretary R.K. Singh said, reasoning that more reports of destruction and casualties were yet to come in from remote hilly regions.
Thousands of soldiers and paramilitary forces battled unending rains and landslides to carry out one of the biggest rescue and relief operation in the hilly region.
In worst-hit Sikkim, which bore the worst of Sunday’s 6.8 magnitude temblor, 35 people were reported killed and over 200 injured. Also, 25 bridges developed cracks and scores of buildings were damaged.
Five people died in West Bengal and two in Bihar, Singh said.
In Sikkim, rescuers searching through the rubble discovered bodies of 10 workers of the Teesta hydel project.
Nature’s fury hampered rescue and relief operations, officials said. Sikkim was pounded by incessant rains while landslides in Darjeeling hills in West Bengal slowed down movement of rescuers.
Landslides snapped Sikkim’s only road link for hours, preventing disaster response teams from reaching some of the affected sites.
Power returned to Sikkim only Monday afternoon, after electricity lines snapped because of the earthquake Sunday evening.
“I saw at least six vehicles hit by landslides, with boulders smashing them on the highway,” said Ravi Lepcha, a teacher in Gangtok.
Ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), including rescue and medical officers, waited for hours to reach quake-hit areas.
Apart from five Indian Air Force planes that carried relief material and NDRF personnel to Baghdogra in West Bengal, the army deployed 7,500 troops in Gangtok, including 2,000 from West Bengal, on “a war footing”.
Five Cheetah and four Dhruv helicopters were pressed into service. The army erected tents for those whose homes were damaged and ran 10 kitchens.
Another 4,000 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel joined the soldiers.
More than 400 people, including 26 tourists, were rescued by security forces despite the rough weather and tough terrain, ITBP Director General Ranjit Sinha said.
Home Secretary Singh said that fortunately earth moving equipment and other machinery were already available locally.
At least 1,000 people moved into relief camps.
“It is death and destruction in Sikkim. People are still in shock. Most houses in Gangtok have suffered wide cracks, even gaping cracks are seen on the main roads,” said Arun Gurung, a businessman in Gangtok.
C.B. Karki, Sikkim’s information minister, told IANS: “The casualty figure might go up as we are still getting reports of deaths and injuries from remote areas. Telecommunication facilities are down, and hence information is hard to come by.”
Besides the Rs.5 lakh each given to families of the killed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sanctioned Rs.2 lakh each for the next of kin of those killed.
The quake shook large parts of India, from New Delhi to Mizoram. It also jostled Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. Nine people were killed in Nepal and seven in Tibet.
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- Quake-hit Sikkim puts toll at 23, surveys horror - Sep 19, 2011
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- Sikkim quake toll rises to 40 - Sep 20, 2011
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- Mamata to seek Rs.500 crore more for quake-hit Darjeeling - Oct 11, 2011
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Tags: air force planes, darjeeling hills, disaster response, electricity lines, hilly region, hilly regions, incessant rains, indian air force, landslides, medical officers, national disaster, ndrf, paramilitary forces, project nature, relief material, relief operations, response force, sikkim, teesta, west bengal