Sikkim quake toll climbs to 72

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Gangtok: Battling landslides and torrential rains in quake-hit Sikkim, rescue teams got into full swing on Monday as the death toll in the 6.8 magnitude temblor mounted to 72, including 41 in the Himalayan state.

Last evening’s earthquake with its epicenter near the border with Nepal, left a trail of devastation damaging roads, buildings and other structures, uprooting mobile phone towers and snapping communication and power lines.

After-shocks caused panic in several areas forcing people to spend the night outdoors.

The death toll may go up. Union Home Secretary R K Singh said nothing can be ruled out as people may still be trapped under the debris of collapsed houses, since rescue teams were still trying hard to reach all villages.

Food packets were air dropped in the inaccessible quake-affected areas.

Two medical teams with doctors and paramedics reached worst affected Mangan and Sangthan with the help of helicopters. Border Roads Organisation has been able to reopen the Himalayan state’s life line, National Highway 31-A, Singh said.

West and South districts in Sikkim remained mostly inaccessible to the Army in the earlier part of the day due to landslides and inclement weather and rescuers were facing an uphill task to reach these areas, Major General S L Narasimhan, GOC 17 Mountain Division, said.

Sikkim accounted for 41 deaths alone, with most casualties taking place in the North District and in towns and villages like Rangpo, Dikchu, Singtam and Chungthang located along the course of Teesta river, officials in the district control room said.

The Home Secretary said ten bodies of employees of Teesta Hydro Electric Project were recovered from the debris in Singtam.

The overnight toll climbed to 72, which included nine deaths in West Bengal and eight in Bihar, seven each in Nepal and Tibet, official reports said. Over a hundred people have been injured.

22 people travelling in a bus went missing since last evening in north Sikkim. A spokesman of the 17 Mountain Division said the army was still not able to find the missing bus which could be anywhere between a radius of 10 and 15 km along Mangan and Chungthang in north Sikkim.