Tragedy has struck the northeastern state of Sikkim as flash floods and cloudbursts have wreaked havoc, resulting in the loss of at least 53 lives, including seven soldiers.

Additionally, 27 more bodies were discovered in the Teesta riverbed in neighbouring West Bengal over the past three days. 

Over 140 people are still missing, while thousands have been displaced by the calamity.

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The Sikkim government reports extensive damage to 1,173 houses and the successful rescue of 2,413 people.

The floodwaters have submerged or washed out all bridges downstream to the Teesta-V hydropower station, severely disrupting communication to North Sikkim, as reported by ANI.

Government initiatives and relief efforts

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has taken charge of the crisis, leading high-level discussions to formulate rescue, relief, and restoration strategies.

Immediate attention has been given to reestablishing road connectivity to Chungthang, with plans to construct the road from Naga to Toong as soon as suitable land becomes available.

Families of the deceased will receive compensation of ₹4 lakh each ($4,812 each).

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts light to moderate rainfall in most areas of Mangan district over the next five days, posing challenges to the evacuation of over 3,000 stranded tourists.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has faced difficulties in conducting rescue operations due to adverse weather conditions, including low cloud cover and visibility in the Lachen and Lachung valleys. Aerial rescue operations are expected to resume once the weather clears.

Flash floods and cloudbursts have caused widespread destruction in Sikkim, affecting more than 25,000 people, damaging nearly 1,200 homes, and destroying 13 bridges.

While rescue efforts have saved 2,413 individuals, 6,875 people remain displaced and are taking shelter in 22 relief camps across the state, which is now largely isolated from the rest of the country.

The flash floods were triggered by a glacial lake burst, leading to the release of water from the Chungthang Dam, resulting in a sudden rise in the Teesta River’s water level.

Chief Minister Tamang attributed the catastrophe to “inferior construction” by previous state governments, emphasising the need for improved infrastructure.

Recent reports indicate that a Parliamentary Committee had previously highlighted a severe shortage of meteorological and monitoring stations in Himalayan regions.

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Sikkim has been informed that it possesses 694 glacial lakes and eight flood forecasting stations, raising questions about the adequacy of monitoring and early warning systems.

An Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) has been formed by the Home Ministry to visit the affected areas and assess the extent of damage, signalling the government’s commitment to addressing this calamity.

(With inputs from agencies)

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