A tragic incident unfolded due to a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in northern Sikkim, resulting in the loss of 10 civilian lives, with 82 individuals missing, including 22 Army personnel. This calamitous event led to the overflowing of the lake, causing flash floods in the Teesta River. Furthermore, the disaster resulted in the collapse of 14 bridges, and there is a growing concern for the safety of more than 3,000 stranded tourists scattered across the state.
The cloudburst took place during the early hours of Wednesday, exacerbating the situation by damaging parts of a dam at Chungthang, which is the state’s largest hydropower project and further intensifying the downstream flooding.
In response to this dire situation, the Sikkim government has officially declared it a disaster under the Disaster Management Act.
Amidst the grim circumstances, there was a glimmer of hope when the Army shared positive news. They reported the successful rescue of one of the 23 soldiers who had gone missing from Bardang, near Singtam town, and confirmed that he is in stable condition.
A senior official from the Sikkim government confirmed the tragic loss of 10 civilian lives and ongoing efforts to locate the 82 missing individuals.
The official stated, “Significant damage has been inflicted on 14 bridges, with nine under the Border Roads Organisation and five under the State government. The safety and well-being of over 3,000 stranded tourists are of utmost concern.” Additionally, around 14 workers employed at the Teesta Stage 3 dam in Chungthang remain trapped in tunnels.
Reports of injuries and missing persons have emerged from various areas, including Chungthang in Mangan district, Dikchu, Singtam in Gangtok district, and Rangpo in Pakyong district, with more than 25 individuals hospitalized.
The flash floods have disrupted mobile networks and broadband connections in Chungthang and most of North Sikkim due to the damage to fiber cable lines. Furthermore, the police station in Chungthang has been impacted.
The Indian Army has launched an extensive search-and-rescue operation to locate the missing soldiers, with one already rescued. Family members of the missing personnel have been informed, and efforts continue for the remaining 22 individuals.
The State government has requested the deployment of three additional platoons of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), a request that has been approved by the central government. Currently, one NDRF platoon is actively engaged in relief and rescue operations in Rangpo and Singtam towns.
One of the three supplementary NDRF platoons will be airlifted to Chungthang for rescue efforts. The transportation of food and supplies to Chungthang will be facilitated once weather conditions allow for air connectivity, according to a state government official.
In an effort to transport essential supplies from Siliguri, the Indian Army and the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd will work together to construct Bailey bridges. Additionally, the State government has established 18 relief camps in the areas most severely affected, including Singtam, Rangpo, Dikchu, and Adarsh Gaon.
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang personally visited Singtam to assess the situation and urged residents to remain vigilant while refraining from unnecessary travel during this critical period. He emphasized the importance of maintaining composure and holding onto hope for a swift return to normalcy in the region.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the Chief Minister of the government’s support in addressing the crisis.