Eight people died while 22 army personnel are among the 69 people who went missing on Wednesday morning as a sudden cloud burst over Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim has resulted in a flash flood in the Teesta River in Lachen valley on Wednesday. According to the officials, the release of water from a dam also led to a sudden elevation in water level of Teesta river.
Reportedly, three of the dead were washed up in north Bengal. An official told PTI, that besides the 22 army personnel, 47 civilians were also missing, while 166 people have so far been rescued, including an army man.
The devastating flash flood has submerged several army camps and vehicles, officials said.The floods started around 1.30 am.Defence officials said establishments along the valley have been affected and efforts are on to confirm details.
VIDEO | 23 Indian Army personnel missing in Sikkim following flash floods.— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) October 4, 2023
(Source: Third Party)
STORY | Flash flood in Sikkim; 23 army personnel missing
The SSDMA, in a press release, stated that a "cloudburst in portions of Lhonak Lake, which caused the rise of water levels with very high velocities downstream along the Teesta River basin in the early hours of Wednesday", damaged many establishments in Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong, and Namchi districts.
In light f the current situaion, all schools located in the four districts of Sikkim will remain closed till October 8, the education department said in a circular.
Meanwhile, all schools located in Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong and Namchi districts will remain closed till October 8, the education department said in a circular.
Parts of National Highway-10, the main link between Sikkim and the rest of the country, were washed away, the officials said, adding, a flood alert has been issued for North Bengal and Bangladesh through which the Teesta flows.
Flash flood in Sikkim
When asked about the situation in the flash flood-hit state of Sikkim, officials said that the release of water from the Chungthang dam led to a sudden increase in water levels up to 15-20 feet high downstream.
According to Lt.Col Mahendra Rawat, twenty-three army personnel have been reported missing and 41 vehicles submerged under the slush.
He further added that search operations were underway.
A steel bridge at Singtam, also known as Indreni bridge, in Gangtok district has been completely washed away by Teesta river water early on Wednesday.
The 120-metre-cable suspension bridge is a very important thoroughfare over the Teesta river.
The water level increased drastically overnight, affecting the Dam site of the 510 MV NHPC hydroelectric power project near Dikchu village, Rawat added.
Rescue operation underway
“Five bodies have been recovered from Golitar and Singtam region,” Gangtok Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Mahendra Chettri said.
"The health condition of the rescued soldier is stable," Defence Spokesperson Lt Col Mahendra Rawat said.
Rawat said the identity of the missing personnel is yet to be ascertained due to a breakdown in communication.
“A steel bridge at Singtam, known as Indreni bridge, 30 km from the state capital Gangtok has been completely washed away by Teesta river water early Wednesday,” an official said.
According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), the water level in the Teesta river was below the danger mark at 1 pm on Wednesday and there is no flood situation around it. The water level at three stations – Melli, Singtam and Rohtak – on the Teesta is below the danger mark but hovering near it, it added.
Bodies, including that of a child, were seen fished out from the flood plains of the Teesta river at Golitar in Singtam by rescue personnel, the officials said.
The defence officials have confirmed that the Border Road Organisation (BRO) has already launched rescue operations and 80 locals had been safely evacuated in the morning of Wednesday.
"All the affected people of Singtam town have been taken to safe places and residents of Dikchu village along the river belt have been evacuated to a nearby school," a Sikkim government official said.
Response from the government
Chief Minister P S Tamang visited Singtam and took stock of the situation. He also held a meeting with senior officials at the Singtam Nagar Panchayat office and asked them to keep vigil.
In a post on social media, Tamang said his thoughts and prayers are with all during this difficult hour.
“In these challenging times, I want to extend my heartfelt support to all the victims and their families affected by this unfortunate event,” he said.
“I want to assure you that the government is fully committed to providing all necessary assistance and relief to those in need. We understand the magnitude of the situation and are mobilizing all available resources to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. Our dedicated teams are working day and night to address the immediate concerns and challenges posed by this calamity,” Tamang said.
The government is actively working to address the challenges posed by the flooding and provide necessary support to those affected by the natural calamity, the official said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang on Wednesday to take stock of the situation in the state, and assured him of all possible support.
"Spoke to Sikkim CM Shri @PSTamangGolay and took stock of the situation in the wake of the unfortunate natural calamity in parts of the state. Assured all possible support in addressing the challenge. I pray for the safety and well-being of all those affected," Modi said on X.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also prayed for the well-being of the missing army personnel.
The Sikkim government, in a notification, said the natural calamity has been declared as a disaster.
The release of water from the Chungthang dam led to a sudden increase in water levels up to 15-20 feet high downstream, the defence spokesperson said.
“Twenty-two army personnel have been reported missing and 41 vehicles submerged under the slush,” he said.
The Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority stated that a "cloudburst in portions of Lhonak Lake, which caused the rise of water levels with very high velocities downstream along the Teesta River basin in the early hours of Wednesday" damaged many establishments in Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong, and Namchi.