New Delhi: The Army finally reached the epicentre of Sunday's killer earthquake in the town of Mangan in Sikkim on Tuesday morning even as the death toll climbed to 82. Army units managed to reach Mangan after the road was cleared on Tuesday morning.
However, North Sikkim was cut off again due to a heavy landslide on the road linking Mangan barely hours after it was cleared. Official sources said the landslide occurred 2 km ahead of Dikchu barely hours after troops and relief teams had opened the road to Mangan.
More than 1 lakh houses have been damaged and 15,000 houses collapsed due to the 6.8 magnitude quake which resulted in casualties in West Bengal, Bihar, Nepal and Tibet too.
Several people are still feared trapped under the debris in far-flung villages, amidst reports of fresh landslides at Gailkhola, 55 kms from Gangtok at NH-31A. Some students are trapped in Rabengla in West Sikkim where aerial reccee is being carried out.
Out of the 82 deaths, 68 are in India, including 53 in Sikkim. Theree peopel are confirmed dead in Bihar and 12 in West Bengal, seven each are dead in Nepal and Tibet respectively.
General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, Lt General Bikram Singh said that two Army jawans died in while rescuing people after boulders hit them. Lt General Singh said that the roads beyond Mangan are completely blocked and will take 25 to 30 days to clear. He added that the Army has lost five jawans due to the quake.
Though electricity has been restored in parts of Sikkim's capital Gangtok, rescue operations have been slow due to bad weather. Nine helicopters have been mobilised and 10 doctors have been airlifted to Chungthang in North Sikkim which is still without power supply.
The army has also deployed 10 medical units in the quake-affected areas.
National Highway 55 which connects Bagdogra to Darjeeling has now been restored while the Gangtok Nathu La Highway, known as Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, is expected to be cleared by Tuesday evening. More than 5000 jawans are carrying out rescue and relief operations in the area.
One way traffic is being allowed on National Highway 31A, linking Gangtok to Bagdogra which was partly opened on Monday.
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamlin is holding a high level meeting to review the situation.
Meanwhile, aerial reccee and damage assessment were still on of worst affected areas like Sintham, Pegong, Chunthang. Food packets were also being dropped in several places.
Looking dangerous, one side of Sikkim's Paljor stadium is tilted and threatening to topple down. The state's Deputy Director of Sports and Youth Affairs Thupten Bhutia has taken stock of the devastation.
Mandeep Singh, SP, East Sikkim, said that most of the rescue operations have been finished as far as east district is concern and most of the tourists stuck in Gangtok have left the state.