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Quake toll mounts to 92; 3,000 rescued in Sikkim

More than 3,000 people were rescued in quake-hit areas of Sikkim by defence forces which scrambled hard to clear debris of collapsed structures and landslides as the death toll in Sunday's powerful temblor shot up to 92. Weather disrupts quake rescue work

india Updated: Sep 20, 2011 21:01 IST

More than 3,000 people were rescued in quake-hit areas of Sikkim by defence forces which scrambled hard to clear debris of collapsed structures and landslides as the death toll in Sunday's powerful temblor shot up to 92, including 53 in the Himalayan state.

Of the 53, 36 people died in the districts of North Sikkim, 12 in East Sikkim, four in West Sikkim and one in South Sikkim, a Relief Control Room official said in Gangtok.

The National Highway 31-A from Mangan to Gangtok was closed due to blockades caused by heavy landslides but an alternative road was reopened to help rescue teams reach the worst-affected areas.

A PTI correspondent who went around some of the quake-hit areas in and around Mangan found people in a state of shock, many afraid to enter their houses which have either developed cracks, tilted perilously or partially collapsed.

"If there is another tremor, my house will collapse. So we are waiting out in the open," said 74-year-old Dengji Sherpa surrounded by his family and villagers at Lachan.

Some others were seen trying to retrieve household goods from the debris.

The toll in Sunday's 6.8 magnitude strong earthquake has mounted to 92. Besides 53 in Sikkim, the toll has gone up to 12 in West Bengal, nine in Bihar and 11 in Nepal. There was no change in Monday's figure of seven deaths in Tibet.

As aftershocks continued, people were seen squatting on roadsides, public places and near temples.

Using helicopters, heavy lift transport aircraft and infantry troops, defence forces rescued more than 3000 people in the quake-hit areas of Sikkim and intensified efforts to extricate people trapped under the debris of collapsed structures.

IAF has airlifted more than 500 troops there, including the medical and engineering teams and is conducting sorties of heavy lift transport aircraft and choppers from Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Bagdogra to ferry troops and ensure supply of medicines and food.

"There are eight to 13 helicopters which have been pressed into service in conjunction with the Air Force. 35 heavy engineering plant equipments have been deployed to restore roads and communication lines," Deputy Director General of Military Operations Brigadier Ranbir Singh said in New Delhi.

Rescue efforts covering 62 villages and 20 medical centers have been set wherein over 370 people have been treated and 8 relief centers have been established where over 2700 people have been provided shelter.

On rescue efforts in Mangan, epicenter of the quake, he said, "281 troops have reached Mangan, including four medical and two engineering teams. A relief camp has been established there and communication teams are working to establish telephone lines."

20 medical centers have been set up in the quake-affected areas in Sikkim and 11 cook houses to provide relief.

A bus carrying 22 people which went missing in north Sikkim since the temblor struck was yet to be traced.

A spokesman of the 17 Mountain Division said the bus could be anywhere in a radius of 10 and 15 km along the quake epicentre Mangan and Chungthang and that efforts have been stepped up to track it.

With some improvement in weather, relief and rescue operations by Army and National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) personnel picked up in the afternoon.

"The biggest challenge now is to get the rescue teams to the worst-affected areas," said Sikkim Information Minister C B Karki.

For the second consecutive day, food packets and medicine pouches were airdropped in inaccessible areas of the mountain state and round-the-clock work is on to clear debris and open roads still blocked due to quake-triggered landslides. District collectors are overseeing the work.

The earthquake has left a trail of devastation cracking roads, damaging houses and other structures, uprooting mobile phone towers and snapping communication and power lines.

Power and telephone lines have been restored in Gangtok. But the fringe areas of the town are still without power and are cut off from the rest of the world.

IAF has also flown sorties of AN-32 aircraft from Jorhat and Delhi and have airlifted around 4.5 tonnes of medicines, Principal Director Operation (Transport and Helicopters) Air Commodore A Raghvendra said.

"So far we have conducted 16 sorties of transport aircraft, 18 helicopter sorties and have airlifted 23 tonnes of load and 500 personnel to Bagdogra," he said.

A senior Army officer said that in next few days, the operations would concentrate on opening other major roads in the state including Nathu La and in Gangtok which have been affected by landslides.

First Published: Sep 20, 2011 13:33 IST