The Sikkim government's preliminary assessment of the loss and damage suffered in the September 18 earthquake near the State's border with Nepal suggested that the figure would not be less than Rs. 1 lakh crore, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said in Gangtok on Wednesday adding that the State would ask the Centre for a special package once the assessment was finalised.

 The State's death toll mounted to 70 during the day even as relief and rescue operations continued to be severely affected by bad weather conditions and poor road connectivity in the worst affected areas in North district. More than 300 injured persons were admitted to various hospitals.

Assessment on

 “We are trying to assess the actual damage caused. We will take 10 days to assess all the damage that has been caused and submit a report to the Centre after which we will ask for a special package,” Mr. Chamling said at a press conference, which was broadcast live by the regional media.

 Asked whether the government had any estimates about the number of persons reported missing, he said search operations were continuing, but there were no figures available. Mr. Chamling told journalists that it may take a month to re-establish the road network in certain parts of the worst-affected North District. Relief camps and control rooms were running in all the four districts. He said there was a problem with ensuring drinking water supply as several pipelines were damaged.

 Asked about increasing criticism of the blasting that is carried out at the sites of the several hydel power projects in the State and how it may have caused or escalated the damage, Mr. Chamling said rumours were being spread, but there was no truth in them.

“Political calamity”

 “This is a calamity, an earthquake. Some are trying to make it a political calamity,” he said.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Sikkim during the day and met the victims of the tragedy in a hospital near Gangtok. He later held a meeting with the Chief Minister and assured him of all cooperation from the Centre.