On Sunday morning, Mathew Lepcha, 33, attended mass with his wife, 27-year-old Nirmala Tamang.
Later in the evening, the pastor and his wife were getting ready for dinner with their two little guests - children of their cousin - when they felt the tremors.
The couple, who lived
on the ground floor of the two-storied Pentecostal church, grabbed the children and headed for the door, when a wall crumbled and hit Nirmala on the head. Mathew leapt to her rescue, but Nirmala, in her attempt to save one of the children, bore the brunt of the impact and died on the spot.
Mathew, who suffered injuries too, is admitted in a hospital in Mangan. Located barely 5 km below Mangan, the district headquarters of north Sikkim, the church was built in 2006 and was considered one of the few strong buildings in the area.
Narrating the incident, Joseph Lepcha, a neighbour, who was among the first to come to the family's rescue, said: "The church collapsed within minutes. None of the four could get to safety."
Pasang Kaji, 60, who owned a four-storied building in east Sikkim's Dikchu, lost everything. But his family and six other families, who were his tenants, miraculously escaped.
The house collapsed in the second tremor, which hit the area 10 minutes after the first, Kaji said. "Had the building collapsed in the first shock, all the 36 people inside would have died."
One of the affluent persons in the locality, Kaji is now spending nights at a pandal built for Biswakarma puja.
But he is thankful to God. "I must have done something good that we managed to survive," he said. A resident of West Bengal's Siliguri, Sibu Haldar, 40, died at Ramom, about 40 km from Mangan, far from his family and friends. An electrician, he was employed with Teesta Urja, the 1,200 MW private hydel power project.
After spending three days with his family, Haldar had left to join work on September 14. He had promised to come home for Durga puja.
Instead, Haldar's body came home to Dabgram on Thursday. His younger brother Subrato said: "Eight people working with him at Teesta Urja died."
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