With 20 more bodies recovered in quake hit Sikkim since last night, the toll mounted to 73 on Wednesday amidst fears that the casualty could go up significantly as the rescue party were yet to reach about 15 major villages in worst hit North district.
Official sources said members of the rescue party found six bodies in East Sikkim and 14 in North as they managed to enter Dzongu from Mangan, the headquarter of North Sikkim where the 6.8 magnitude tremor of Sunday was epicentred.
North district alone accounted for 50 deaths, while 18 people died in East district, four in West and one in South district. Over 300 people were injured, the sources said.
The sources said the rescue party which include personnel of the army, NDRF and local people would have to clear at least 30 to 40 major roads blocks created by debris of landslides to reach about 10-15 major villages.
“We have no idea of the condition in villages like Sakyong-Pentong, Bey which were in forested areas beyond Dzongu,” an official said.
The villages in Sikkim are scattered and there is only one major highway connecting Mangan to Dzongu.
The rescue operation was also hampered by intermittent rains, the sources said.
The rescuers also met people who walked for two days through hilly terrain and forests to reach Mangan from Dzongu.
Some of the people of Mangan expressed unhappiness with the visiting media persons for worrying only about tourists and ignoring locals.
One of them, W. Bhutia, said: “You (media) people are only interested about what happened to tourists. They receive the best of services from hotels. Nobody bothers to take note of what is happening to poor people like us.”
Meanwhile, army sources said a 8-10 km stretch at Tung, which is 16 km off Mangan, had caved in impeding rescue operators from reaching worst-hit Chungthang.
Sikkim Director General of Police Jasbir Singh said Border Road Organisation personnel were deployed to clear the highway .
District collectors have been asked to reach Mangan, Lachen, Lachung and Chungthan, rendered inaccessible by the landslides, immediately by air as more bodies are feared to be trapped in under quake debris.
An official release in Gangtok said roads to Namchi and Jorethang in South Sikkim have also been reinstated.
Geyzing in West Sikkim is now accessible by road.
The other arterial roads in West and South Sikkim have also been partially opened and light and emergency vehicles are reported to be plying, it said.