Gangtok: Four days after a devastating earthquake measuring a forceful 6.8 on the Richter scale struck large parts of north east India, rescue and relief teams are still trying to reach thousands of people trapped in remote areas.
Many villages in quake-hit Sikkim are still out of reach and thousands are said to be waiting for help. Rescue operations remain the biggest challenge as rain and landslides are severely hampering the efforts and bad weather is not allowing helicopters to land.
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling on Wednesday visited the quake-affected areas including Nanduk - one of the worst-hit villages - which is an hour's drive from the capital Gangtok. There were about 25 houses in this village but the powerful quake razed the entire village to the ground. Fortunately, no casualties were reported.
"I think loss and damage will be not less than Rs one lakh crore. We will assess thoroughly the loss of properties," Mr Chamling said, adding, "We are trying to assess the (exact) loss. We will do it in about 10 days and will submit a report and ask for a special package from the Centre."
The Chief Minister also said that it would take at least a month to build damaged roads again. "Many roads have been affected, and thousands of houses have been destroyed. In north Sikkim, contact has been broken with nine villages. Roads are completely closed," he said.
Mr Chamling announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured.
A total of 700 houses have reportedly collapsed across the state with 500 of them having suffered substantial damage.
Authorities have opened at least 100 relief camps to provide food and medicines to those whose homes have been damaged in the quake. Around 3,200 people have taken shelter at camps set up by the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Gangtok on Wednesday and made an aerial survey of quake-hit North Sikkim. He also visited a hospital in Gangtok. (Read)
At least 114 people have died in the the devastating earthquake. Over 57 people have died in Sikkim alone. Casualties have also been reported from neighbouring Bihar and West Bengal. The quake that hit at around 6 pm on Sunday was centred on the Sikkim-Nepal border, 64 kilometre north-west of Gangtok. It also It also shook Nepal and Tibet.
Road links between Sikkim and the rest of the country, snapped since Sunday due to landslides, have been restored. But there are still stretches where mudslides have affected connectivity.
According to the home ministry, road connectivity to one of the worst-affected areas of Mangan in Sikkim has been restored while roads to some other badly-hit areas remain shut. Mangan is close to the quake epicentre located on the Indo-Nepal border.
Around 22 bodies were found under the rubble at the Teesta hydel project here today, as rescuers scouted through devastated areas where "heavy casualties" were feared. (Read)
More than 6,000 Army personnel, paramilitary troopers and police personnel are engaged in massive rescue and relief operations. Half of them have been deployed in the worst-hit north Sikkim areas.
In one of the most daring evacuations by the Army, a Cheetah helicopter managed to land on a precipice so that two injured people could be evacuated. (Watch: Army's heroic rescue act in Sikkim)
Thirty sorties have been done by helicopters provided by the Ministry of Defence for airdropping and reconnaissance. Food packets have been airdropped in the northern part of the North district at a place called Myang.
The Centre has constituted an inter-ministerial team to visit the affected areas in the state and submit its recommendations for assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund.