A week after a devastating earthquake hit Sikkim, claiming 77 lives, the Herculean task of reconstruction has begun.
Last Sunday's earthquake, which measured 6.8 in Richter scale, had triggered hundreds of landslides, blocking roads and cutting off villages. According to preliminary estimates, at least Rs. 100 crore is required to restore road connectivity.
On Thursday, the Sikkim government had demanded Rs. 1 lakh crore as relief from the Centre, of which Rs. 50 crore was given as an immediate grant.
The army claimed it has accessed almost all the quake-hit villages, the task would be finished on Monday. According to locals, two villages - Shipgyer and Saffu Salim-Pakyal - are yet to be reached.
Bad weather had hampered rescue and relief operations on Friday and Saturday, with helicopters carrying relief materials failing to take off.
After the operations were resumed on Sunday afternoon, the army rescued 92 stranded people. By Sunday, special communication equipment, including satellite telephones, were also installed in 95% of the cut-off hamlets, said army spokesperson Colonel Ajay Dua.
The downpour over the last 48 hours had triggered 39 landslides and blocked parts of the National Highway 31A that connects Sikkim with the rest of the country. The road was blocked for seven hours at Singtam and was finally cleared in the noon.
Landslides have also blocked parts of the 95-km North Sikkim road. There have been 54 major landslides in the 24-km stretch between Chunthang and Lachnung. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the roads, has already cleared a 3.2 km stretch.
On Sunday, the North Sikkim road was opened up to 1 km ahead of Toong, 21 km north of Mangan. But beyond that, the task is very difficult, said KP Purushothaman, director (planning) of BRO's Project Swastik in Sikkim. A 14-km stretch between Toong and Chungthang has been washed away.