Vijay Kumar, a businessman from Mysore, was looking forward to a pleasant vacation. The day the 6.8 richter earthquake shook Sikkim, Kumar had just arrived in Lachung in north Sikkim. "On Sunday, we had just reached and after a cup of tea we went out for a walk when the earth shook. The next minute the road vanished," said Kumar, whose wife and friend, Sanjay Kumar, were also trapped with him.
Sanjay, a Mysore-based jeweller, was hit in his leg by a rock. "After spending some time out in the open, we came back to the hotel, considering it a safer option. The army and local residents were extremely helpful. The locals shared their food with us, despite shortage," he said.
After 72 hours of complete isolation from the outside world, Vijay Kumar and 74 other tourists, including four foreigners - 2 Norwegians and 2 US nationals - finally heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday.
The same day chief minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling admitted that nine villages in north Sikkim were still inaccessible and it would take about a month to restore complete connectivity.
Sikkim's information and public relations secretary Karma Soman Tobgey said rescue operations would resume on Thursday. "Dzongo village, which is totally cut off, might have some stranded tourists," he added.
Meanwhile, the death toll due to landslides in Sikkim reached 72. It is feared that labourers from others states working in hydel projects in north Sikkim are trapped inside tunnels.
Ahmed Sayed Lasker a junior engineer with the Teesta Urja Hydel project at Ramam, 130 km from Gangtok, said, "The tunnels are safe and hundreds of workers who had taken shelter in the tunnels have already reached safer places." But he was unable to confirm whether all workers had been rescued.
AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Lungsey on the outskirts of the state headquarters Mangan amidst tight security.