Rescue and relief operations are on in full swing in the areas of Sikkim hit by Sunday's 6.8 magnitude earthquake. Nearly 5,500 Army personnel and 700 jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are lending support.

(According to PTI, the overall death toll in the earthquake mounted to 72, including 41 in Sikkim, nine in West Bengal, eight in Bihar, seven each in Nepal and Tibet.)

The main arterial road connecting Gangtok to Siliguri was restored on Monday afternoon by the Army and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh told journalists. Nine helicopters were engaged in rescue and relief efforts in Sikkim.

The death toll was likely to go up as many people were still trapped under debris, he said. Most casualties were reported from the North District and in places along the course of the Teesta river. The ITBP personnel recovered bodies of 10 workers of the Teesta Hydel project.

An aerial survey of the affected areas was done and efforts were on to reach out to inaccessible villages. Power lines in Sikkim had been restored and landline phones were working. Some mobile networks had been partially restored.

Army joins rescue work

Army personnel, including 10 columns of engineers, each comprising 15 to 20 persons, were pressed into service soon after the first tremors struck at 6.11 p.m. on Sunday, a Defence Ministry release said. Troops stationed in the area also provided shelter to over 1,500 people, including, 1,000 civilians, in Gangtok and 200 civilians in Darjeeling.

A team of 20 doctors from the Army Medical Corps, carrying 200 kg of essential medical supplies, flew to Bagdogra from New Delhi on Monday.

An MI-17 helicopter with medical team and relief equipment also took off from Bagdogra for Gangtok. Two more Cheetah helicopters from Bagdogra carried out aerial survey to assess the damage.