Fearing fresh tremors and landslides, hundreds of people in quake-hit remote areas of Sikkim started moving out of their villages as rescue teams airlifted 22 stranded engineers with the death toll in Sunday’s 6.8 devastating temblor rising to 118.
Scores of survivors trekked through difficult terrain and inclement weather from Lachung, Lachen and Chungthang reaching Tung, 10 km from Chungthang, one of the worst-hit areas, and recounted how huge boulders hurtled down the hills smashing their homes and leaving many dead and injured.
Over 10,000 food packets have been airdropped in the quake-hit areas of north Sikkim as two major roads connecting the region remained blocked due to landslides after Sunday’s 6.8 magnitude earthquake.
Home Ministry officials on Friday said another 5000 food packets are being sent to Chungthan, Lachung and Lachen.
With another body recovered in North Sikkim, the overall death toll has risen to 118 including 75 in the Himalayan state while West Bengal has reported 15 deaths, nine in Bihar, 11 in Nepal, seven in Tibet and one in Bhutan.
The number of dead in Sikkim has climbed to 57 in North District, East , West(4) and South (1).
Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has convened a high-level meeting with top officials to take stock of the situation and work out measures to further intensify relief operations.
More than 100 relief camps have been set up across the state where food supplies and other required materials have reached, Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso told reporters.
“We first escaped to Guma and spent the night there and next morning we started trekking through extremely difficult terrains covered with debris,” Karma Bhutia (30), who arrived from Lachen here after trekking for two days, said.
Bhutia several villagers had to crawl some distances in spells since they feared that the wet soil might cave in any moment if they walked on such stretches.
Army sources said 22 engineers and technicians of Poddar Construction, engaged by the Teesta Urja Project, were rescued from Tung, five days after their bus was stranded during the powerful tremor in Sikkim.
“Their bus was halted by a huge boulder and our men rescued them from Tung yesterday. They will be sent to Gangtok today,” they said.
15 helicopters of Army and Air Force have been pressed into relief work. For airdropping and reconnaissance, 150 sorties have been carried out so far,” an official said.
While nine vital roads, including National Highway 31A and National Highway 55, have been reopened for traffic, two roads Chungthang-Lachen and Chungthan-Lachung continued to remain blocked due to landslide.
Five teams of NDRF have been deployed for search and rescue operations at Shipgyar, Biha and Bringbang Ramam, Lingzya and Dzongu villages in Mangan.
Labourers returning to Gangtok from the Teesta Stage III hydel project site at Chungthang in worst-hit North District today claimed that 70 of their colleagues were still missing.
Two teams of NDRF comprising 14 personnel and 16 personnel each are deployed at Chungthan and Lachung respectively.
Altogether 827 ITBP personnel are engaged in rescue operations and have also been running relief camps where rescued villagers have been given shelter.
Officials said the state government has opened 11 relief camps.
2700 and 550 people have been provided shelter into Army camps and ITBP camp (Pengong) respectively. 940 civilians have been treated at military hospitals.