Powerful earthquake jolts India’s northeast

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Gangtok: A powerful earthquake of 6.8 magnitude hit Sikkim and India’s other eastern areas, leaving 18 people dead and over 100 injured besides causing extensive damage to buildings and roads.

The epicenter of the quake, the biggest in two decades, was located over 50 km from Gangtok on the Sikkim-Nepal border. Neighboring Nepal also felt the tremors caused by the earthquake.

Seven persons were killed in Sikkim, two at Singtham in East district, two in Rishi in West district and one at Mangan in North district, Chief Secretary, Karma Gyatso, told here.

“The National Disaster Relief Force in on its way to Sikkim and would reach Sikkim by tomorrow,” Gyatso added.

Gyatso described the disaster as ‘a massive earthquake’ and informed that the armed forced and the paramilitary personnel were alerted.

Two army jawans were killed in north Sikkim area and three army vehicles, including one with army personnel, were reported missing, army officials said in Delhi.

In neighbouring West Bengal, four deaths were reported, three in Darjeeling district and one in Jalpaiguri district, Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh said.

In Bihar, two persons were killed in Nalanda and Darbhanga districts, official sources said. A five-year-old girl and a youth were the two victims, they said.

At least five people were killed in Nepal, three of them outside the British Embassy in Kathmandu, when a high brick-wall collapsed.

Four teams of National Disaster Response Force have been rushed to Sikkim and five more teams were being sent from Kolkata, Cabinet Secretary, Ajit Kumar Seth, told reporters after a meeting of top officials in Delhi convened on the direction of Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister himself is monitoring the developments connected to the quake,” Seth told.

“Several buildings developed major cracks in the state as personnel of the Disaster Management were deployed,” Gyatso said.

Three after-shocks of 5.7, 5.3 and 4.6 magnitude on the Richter Scale were felt in the region within 30 minutes of the first quake.

“Tremors were felt between 30 seconds to one minute in some parts of Sikkim, including Gangtok,” Shailesh Nayak, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said in Delhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and offered help in all possible ways, including availability of defence forces.

Power and water supply connections in Gangtok got snapped and continuous rains during the last three days worsened the situation.

The tremor was felt in Delhi and Kolkata as well as Ranchi and Darjeeling. Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Birbhum and Bankura districts in West Bengal.

“Darjeeling and Kalimpong are now in total darkness,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, adding, “We have alerted all district magistrates throughout the state.”

A Patna report said the tremor was felt in various parts of Bihar, including Darbhanga.

In the north, besides New Delhi, the tremors were felt in Jaipur and nearby areas of Rajasthan. Panic gripped people in Lucknow and other places in Uttar Pradesh, where the quake was felt.