New Delhi: At least 54 people have been killed, 42 in India, five in Nepal and seven in Tibet, and over 100 are injured after an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale shook Sikkim on Sunday evening. Strong tremors were also felt in parts of North and East India and parts of Bangladesh and Nepal, causing widespread panic. The epicentre of the quake is said to be just 64 kilometre North-West of Gangtok. (First Pictures)
35 people, including two Armymen, were killed in Sikkim and many others received injuries there. In Bihar, a seven-year-old girl was among two dead. Latehar was one of the worst hit in India; two people died there and wide cracks were visible on houses. Roads also cracked in several places and residents ran out on the streets. Five more died in West Bengal. Of the five people killed in Nepal, three casualties were reported from Kathmandu, where the British embassy collapsed and smashed a car. (Read: Five killed as earthquake hits Nepal)
Tremors were felt in Lucknow, Patna, Kolkata, New Delhi and the National Capital Region, which sent thousands of people running out of their homes. (Forum: Did you feel the tremors?)
Three aftershocks, of magnitude 5.7, 5.1 and 4.6 were also felt in Sikkim, says the India Meteorological Department. (Buzz on Twitter)
Many buildings in Sikkim developed cracks, including the Sikkim Manipal University building. National Highway 31A was also badly hit, but the Army and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) have restored the road communication. However, it is open for one way traffic only.
The highway connects Sukna in Darjeeling (West Bengal) to Gangtok in Sikkim.
A total number of 4000 people are involved in the rescue operations including the personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). They have launched search and rescue operations in the Pegong area of north Sikkim which has been "badly affected." The ITBP rescued 15 foreign tourists and 150 villagers in their operations. They were moved to battalion headquarters. Rescue operations are, however, being hampered by heavy rainfall and landslides. (Read: ITBP rescue 15 tourists, 150 villagers)
Addressing a press conference today, Home Secretary RK Singh said food is being air dropped in Siliguri and Purnea. He also said a team of doctors has been air lifted to Sikkim. The Siliguri-Gangtok highway has also been partially opened after landslides, he added.
The Home Secretary also said around 2000 people are in an Army camp and around 400 in an ITBP camp.
Apart from five civilians, two Army personnel were killed in Sikkim. There was also extensive damage to Army structures in North Sikkim. The Army bus, which was missing after the earthquake, was found today. All the Armymen in the bus are safe.
Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were
rushed to Sikkim and five more teams were being sent from Kolkata,
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth told reporters after a meeting of top
officials in Delhi convened on the direction of Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh. The PM has also spoken to Sikkim's Chief Minister
Pawan Chamling and offered help. (Read: PM orders meeting of disaster authority) | (Read: What is National Disaster Response Force?)
The NDRF personnel, including 20 doctors, were in Siliguri to help and rescue those trapped. Main Siliguri-Gangtok highway is blocked at 25 places; the Army is trying to open the highway.
10 engineer columns are moving from Siliguri to clear the four blockages in the Siliguri-Gangtok route. Large amount of civilians have been accommodated in Kalimpong in West Bengal and other places in Sikkim.