Even after 5 days, students of Mangan HSS couldn't speak to parents in quake-hit Lachung but they are rendering voluntary service

Tashi Wangchuk, Doma Lachungpa and Pema Tshering, all class IX students of the Mangan Higher Secondary School have not been able to speak to their parents in remote Lachung, one of the worst quake-hit areas in North District of Sikkim, even after five days of the disaster.

However, on Thursday, these students, along with 17 schoolmates, some of them from Chungthang, which still remains cut off, putting their worries behind, volunteered to load supplies of essential commodities, meant for the quake-hit in remote and inaccessible areas, in army helicopters and choppers of the Teesta Urja Company.

“We have volunteered to render service as some other people are rendering help to our families. We are worried about our parents as there is no road communication to our villages. The telephone lines are down. We went to Tung, about 15 km from here along the Mangan-Chungthang road. But the road has simply vanished under the rubble of landslips and it is not possible even to go on foot. We know our parents are also equally worried about us. Surely they must have got assistance from others. That is why we have come forward to help the administration and NGOs in airlifting supplies,” Tashi Wangchuk told The Hindu.

Some of these students also acted as guides to a team of the National Disaster Response Force and trekked a jungle route to go to Bay village on a rescue mission. “However, after going some distance, the NDRF team found it difficult to proceed further. The NDRF team needs special training for carrying out rescue operations in high altitude areas,” said Uttam Dorjee, a student volunteer.

Another group of children from the North Sikkim Academy, a residential school of Mangan, was also at the helipad, waiting to be airlifted to Chungthang. From there, the students would have to trek 10 km to reach their village.

Every time a chopper lands at the Mangan helipad, the student volunteers would, braving rain, rush towards it to help the rescued people by carrying their bags, and then load relief materials to facilitate quick airlifting.

The relief materials stocked at the helipad were provided by the Bangalore-based NGOs Sankalp India Foundation and the World Vision.

The army and Teesta Urja choppers have been making 20-30 sorties to the Mangan helipad every day since rescue and relief operations started on Monday, bringing the injured, rescued tourists, civilians, workers of the Teesta Hydel Project and the bodies of the quake victims. General Officer Commanding 33 Corps of the Army Lt. Gen. Vinod Patil, who arrived at the helipad to oversee the operations, said 3,000 army personnel had been deployed for rescue and relief missions in North District alone.

Residents of Mangan like Eve Sarolin Lepcha and other members of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sikkim also extended a helping hand, providing water, juice and medicines to the rescued people.

A team of local volunteers, led by K. Sangnima, district disaster management official, managed to reach Bay, where landslip debris flattened a house, killing all seven members of a family. Mangan Nagar Panchayat Samiti president Karma Jiggal said four bodies were recovered by locals. On Thursday, the Army dropped about 10 soldiers near the village to recover the remaining three bodies still lying buried, he said.

Communication severed

Surface communication to Lachung and Chungthang in north Sikkim has been severed and the roads to these places are unlikely to be restored before one month.