Four days after a powerful quake jolted Sikkim, killing scores of people, the Union government on Wednesday constituted an inter-ministerial team to visit the affected areas .

About 40 foreign tourists, who were stranded in the worst-hit North District, have since been evacuated.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who was in Kolkata on Wednesday, is scheduled to visit Sikkim on Thursday to review the rescue and relief operations.

“The Centre has constituted an inter-ministerial team to visit the affected places in the State and give its recommendations for assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund,'' a spokesperson of the Home Ministry said. The State government has said the death toll stood at 57, but unofficial reports spoke about the possibility of some persons being trapped in debris in inaccessible areas.

“The death toll may go up further as rescue and relief teams reach further into interior areas,” the spokesperson said. As many as 3,200 people were sheltered at Army camps and a camp run by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). A total of 5,500 Army personnel and 700 from the ITBP were deployed for rescue and relief operations. As many as 60 villages were physically covered by Army jawans.

Food packets were airdropped in the northern part of the North District at Myang. According to reports received by the Home Ministry, a total of 700 houses in Sikkim collapsed in the aftermath of the quake. About 500 houses were reported to be substantially damaged.

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