Saturday, September 24, 2011

Two buildings collapse in Gangtok, trapped inmates rescued

 GANGTOK, 23 Sept: Following the massive earthquake of 18 September which has damaged thousands of buildings statewide, it was only a matter of time before news poured in of collapsing buildings. Late this evening, a five-storied building belonging to the Secretary, Sports & Youth Affairs Department, near the Vajra Cinema hall on the North Sikkim Highway collapsed trapping three people inside. Miraculously, all three survived after rescue personnel comprising of civilians, the army and NDRF pulled them out of the debris in time. Only the top two floors could be seen above the road while the other 3 stories had sunk.

VHAS relief team reaches traumatized Tumin and Bey

The VHAS Relief team carrying relief materials crosses a landslide at Bey Village in Upper Dzongu on 22nd September 2011
Funeral of earthquake victims at Bey where seven people were killed when a landslide pulverised their homes. The funeral was organized by VHAS volunteers. A fresh landslide tore down the slope even as the cremation was underway

The part of Bey village where a landslide washed away
seven people and their homes on Sunday night.

Issued by: Office of the VHAS, Tadong-Gangtok
Voluntary Health Association of Sikkim (VHAS) has been trying to gather information on the disaster and also directly visiting affected areas of different districts for immediate relief work.
VHAS has been coordinating with government agencies such as District Control Room, District Development Officers, Block Development Officer, Rural Development Assistant, Panchayats members and NGOs, informs a press release.
A team of VHAS comprising of Executive Director, Dr BB Rai, Mr Nehru, Mr Ashok, Mr. Ash Bahadur, Mr. Subhankar, Mr. Kamal and Mr. Prem Chettri reached the highly affected villages of Tumin Gram Panchayat Unit of East District on 19 Sept. As access to the villages was totally damaged, the team had to walk through jungles and hills for more than five hours to reach the affected villages.

‘Slides have changed the entire landscape’

Sanja and her husband [below] and the masons [above] they were working with at the Tholung Monastery repairs works and a construction project there.


GANGTOK, 22 Sep: “We do not know how to tell you what lies beyond these slides... There are landslides all along the route, most of them still active, and while were high above 12 Mile [near Bey], we even saw some dead bodies caught in the debris below. We had neither the strength, nor the courage to stop and check, we kept walking,” says 29-year-old Sanja Rai who walked for two days along with her husband Rajkumar and eight others to reach Mangan from Tholung deep inside Dzongu on Wednesday afternoon.
The ten of them were employed in the Tholung monastery renovation work and were there when the earthquake struck on Sunday evening. While Sanja and her husband hail from Pentok in Mangan and were employed at the work-site. The remaining eight are masons from Islampur, West Bengal.
NOW! met them near the Lingzya Falls in Dzongu on Wednesday, just as they crossed the landslide at this spot till where the roads have been cleared. They had left Tholung early on Monday morning and had nothing to eat since then. Walking for most part of the day and sleeping in the open at night, their feet were lacerated from walking on stones and their bodies covered with leech bites.

CM visits North Sikkim, hands over ex gratia payments

MANGAN, 23 Sept:  Chief Minister Pawan Chamling visited the North District HQ, Mangan today, travelling over road via Dikchu, making several stops to talk to groups of earthquake affected people along the way. At the District Hospital here, he handed over Rs. 50,000 each to all injured people admitted there and spent time with them, hearing out their terror and offering words of consolation.
He also visited the Ringhem Monastery above Mangan which has suffered 70% damages.  The Head Lama in-charge, Acharya Aptuk Lepcha, made a fervent plea for repairs and rehabilitation. The CM promised to rebuild the monastery and requested the area MLA to start the process of rebuilding.

Cops appeal people against forwarding SMSes spreading false news

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: The Superintendent of Police [East] Dr. MS Tuli and Officer in-Charge, Sadar Police Station, Tshering Sherpa have appealed to the people of Gangtok not to entertain the false and baseless SMSes being circulated in town regarding the earthquake that struck the State on 18 September.

SDF forms Relief Teams

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: To tackle the challenges posed by the earthquake destruction in Sikkim, the Sikkim Democratic Front has formed a relief team comprising of party vice presidents as was directed by the party president, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, a party press release informs.
The Relief Team, comprising of party vice presidents Somnath Poudyal, Satish Chandra Rai, Manita Mangar, secretary, core committee, JM Gurung, Amos R Lepcha, general secretary (East), KK Thatal, Minister, Neeru Sewa visited West Pandem and took account of the earthquake victims and their losses.
The team also directed local party workers and the panchayats to engage in relief works, inspect all the affected areas and prepare a detailed report on it.

Special prayers being offered at monasteries across Sikkim

GANGTOK, 23 Sept [IPR]: In view of the devastating Sunday earthquake, various eminent Rinpoches have advised to perform Barchay Lamsel (clear away obstacles on the path), Dolma (Tara Puja), recitation of the Vajra Guru mantra and offering of Neysol to the guardian deities in different monasteries immediately, informs a press communiqué issued by the Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Accordingly, the Department has assigned the performance of the above prayers at the prominent monasteries of the state.

NHPC clears Lower Dzongu roads from Phedang to Ringkhola

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: NHPC cleared roads in Lower Dzongu between Phedang to Ringkhola which had been totally cut off due to the Sunday earthquake that ripped through Sikkim on 18 September, informs a press release.
The residents of this area, who have suffered the brunt of this earthquake were stranded in their villages with massive landslides blocking all roads and were not able to commute even to the local market to get their basic commodities, the release states.

Public-private partnership to coordinate relief and rescue

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: The State police, district administration, STDC and different national and international NGOs have come together to form an umbrella body by the name of “Inter Agency Response Group” [IARG] operating out of the helipad here in the capital.
Coordinator IARG, Vikrant Mahajan of Sphere India, New Delhi, informed today that IARG has a total of 50 organizations out of which 14 are from outside the State and the remaining local.

Govt Drivers appeal for one day’s salary to be contributed to relief fund

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: The executive members of All Sikkim Government Drivers’ Association convened a meeting today at the Tashiling Secretariat with the SNT Drivers and Conductors Association, All Fourth Grade Employees Association, All Sikkim MR/WC Government Employees Association, All Sikkim Forest Guard Association and SNT Mechanical Workers Association. The meeting was presided over by the president, ASDA, Chakra Bhr. Rai, informs a press release issued by the general secretary, ASDA, Karma Tshering

Handling Rumours in Times of Distress

Sikkim has always been susceptible to rumours and the increased levels of anxiety in the wake of the Sunday earthquake have weakened it even more to the power of hearsay. Rumours spike during emergencies and there is really no way to stop them. The only way that the damage potential of rumours can be moderated is through immediate and convincing clarifications. There is really no other defence against the machine which churns out rumours which can trigger panic, because in times of crisis like the one gripping Sikkim at present, most of the rumours are not born out of mischief but are creations of misinformed concern.
Admittedly, not all rumours are born with anonymous SMSes and even the media outlets can at time contribute to creating panic with misrepresentation or instinctive sensationalism. Sikkim experienced two such outbursts yesterday and it is time that its agencies started countering rumours with clarifications. It is important to bear in mind that denials alone are not enough. Given the traumatised state of most minds, it is important that rumours are not just dismissed as false, but detailed clarifications and counter-explanations presented.


1. All buildings are basically cantilevers taking off from the ground and are structurally weaker in the lateral direction as compared to the vertical direction. During an Earthquake, the seismic forces are acting on the building in the horizontal direction.
2. Try to avoid irregular shaped buildings in plan like L,C,Y etc without expansion joints. Buildings with this plan configuration in one block are most vulnerable as there is a variation in the lateral stiffness within the building and are most vulnerable to seismic forces. The simple box structure (Machis ko Khol) is best for Earthquake resistant design and half the battle against Earthquakes is already won by following a box configuration.
3. Make your columns as strong as possible within your budget especially the ones from the foundation to the first floor through the ground floor. During an Earthquake the ground floor columns are usually subjected to maximum shear forces and most vulnerable to fail. In case of a failure, the structural repairs of the ground floor columns to the foundation are tedious and expensive whereas the repairs of the columns in the upper storeys are relatively easier.
4. Be careful of “Soft Storeys” in your building. Soft storeys are created when the partition walls are absent to create halls/basement parking and large rooms. In the absence of partition walls which help to resist lateral forces on the building, the columns will be subjected to greater lateral loading and these have to be designed accordingly or braced.

All NHPC structures unaffected by earthquake, organization assures

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: Although the Sunday earthquake has extensively damaged residential private properties of local villages, small towns, adjoining roads and communication system, the major civil structures i.e. Dam and Power House of Teesta-V Power Station and Rangit Power Station in Sikkim, including projects under-construction like Teesta Low Dam Project Stage-III and Teesta Low Dam Project Stage-IV in West Bengal, are completely safe and no damages have been caused, assures an NHPC press release.

CS convenes coordination meet to take stock of post-earthquake situation

GANGTOK, 23 Sept [IPR]: Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso chaired a coordination meeting here at the Chintan Bhawan conference hall today on the earthquake disaster management and the relief operations in progress. The meeting was attended by senior officials from the State Government, armed forces, BRO, SSB, ITBP, National Disaster Rescue Force and other agencies
The meeting started with a two-minute silence observed in the memory of lives lost to the earthquake and the Chief Secretary, in his address, conveyed deep grief and sadness on the casualties suffered by Sikkim.

ASGEA offers guest house to families of earthquake affected patients

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: A meeting of central executive committee of All Sikkim Government Employee Association (C&D Grade) was convened yesterday, informs a press release issued by the general secretary, SEGEA, KC Dahal.
The meeting resolved to offer the Govt. Employees Guest House situated near STNM Hospital free of charge to families of earthquake affected patients undergoing treatment at STNM hospital.
The guest house has 3 furnished rooms with 4 beds each in couple of the rooms and 2 beds in one of the rooms. All the rooms come with attached bathrooms, the release briefs.

Candlelight rally in Gangtok

People from all walks of life took out a candlelight rally on Friday evening in Gangtok to express solidarity for the victims of the earthquake that struck the State on the evening of 18 September. The candlelight rally began from Metro Point, went up to Zero Point and coming down via Tibet Road, ended in front of the Sadar Police Station.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tokchi Monastery, Tenkilakha

Tokchi Gumpa under Tenkilakha in Samsing Gram Panchayat Unit of Pakyong Sub-Division in East Sikkim. [foto: Uttam Chhetri, Namcheybong]

Centre will be generous in assisting Sikkim get back on its feet: Chidambaram

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has assured that Sikkim will not want for funds in its rebuilding exercise. In a statement on his daylong Sikkim-visit today, Mr. Chidambaram, while extending his deep sympathies to the government and the people of Sikkim, highlighted that the earthquake toll is “relatively very high even if the number looks small as a proportion of the population, it’s a high number”. On latest count, 75 lives have been lost to the earthquake and extensive damage suffered by infrastructure and private and public property.
“I wish to begin by conveying my deepest sympathies to the people of Sikkim and to assure them that in this hour of grief, the entire people of India stand with the people of Sikkim,” he said.

Death toll climbs to 57 in North district

MANGAN, 22 Sept: The death toll in Sikkim due to the Sunday earthquake has reached 75 as per the latest update released by the State Government this afternoon. The only new casualties detected have been in North Sikkim where the number has climbed to 57. The figures have not changed from East [13], South-01 and West Sikkim-04.
In the North district, five dead bodies were recovered from Bey-Pentong in Upper Dzongu today. Here, seven people were missing after a landslide triggered by the earthquake swept away four houses. The dead bodies were recovered by a rescue team made up of local youth with the National Disaster Relief Force remaining unable to reach the area. Meanwhile a team led by Forest and police personnel have also left for Bey Pentong.

Adequate funds released to grassroots functionaries to address exigencies: CS

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: Chief Secretary, Karma Gyatso, addressing a media briefing to present the status update on the Earthquake relief measures, informed that the Chief Minister convened a high-level meeting with the Chief Secretary, DGP and officials from all line departments involved in the day-to-day post-Earthquake operation this morning. This meeting, he said, was detailed and specific and took several clear decisions.
The meeting decided to release Rs 5 lakh each to all GPUs, Rs 10 lakh each to the Dzumsas at Lachen and Lachung, Rs 50 lakh to District Collectors, Rs 10 lakh each to the 9 SDMs and Rs 5 lakh each to the 29 BDOs across the State.
He informed that this amount will be over and above other miscellaneous expenses released to the DCs, and added there was provision to release more as and when requested.

70 labourers still missing in Chungthang, claim labourers arriving in Gangtok

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: Almost all houses in Chungthang damaged, some bodies still to be recovered from the debris, no clean water to drink and a number of labourers recorded missing is the kind of status report of Chungthang coming in from eye-witnesses and those who survived the earthquake of 18 September at the north district sub-division.
A group of labourers of Euphoria company, one of the numerous companies working at Teesta Urja’s Teesta Stage III hydel project site, returned to Gangtok today on their way to their respective homes.

23 school buildings totally damaged, 192 partially

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: With 23 government schools across the State completely damaged and more than 192 school buildings with damage in varying degrees, none of them could resume classes today as earlier proposed. Those schools with buildings spared major damage by the earthquake are expected to resume classes from Friday onwards, informed HRDD Minister NK Pradhan today.
The Sunday earthquake has been exceptionally severe on school buildings and the Department, the Minister informed, has deputed officials across the State, especially to schools which cannot resume classes in their present conditions.

Namchi pools resources to help North Sikkim recover

NAMCHI, 22 Sept: Namchi, which has been spared the ferocity of the Sunday Earthquake, has come forward to help the worst affected district of North Sikkim.
Under the initiative of Namchi Municipal Council, the people of Namchi Bazaar today made donations in cash and kind in support of the earthquake victims of North Sikkim. This was collected by the Namchi Municipal Council here at Namchi Central Park.

985 houses collapse under Sunday Quake in Dentam BAC

The Block Development Officer, Dentam, Himmat Rai, informs that 1,591 houses were damaged in Sunday earthquake in the Dentam BAC. While 167 houses have registered minor damage, 578 houses suffered major damages and 985 houses have completely collapsed. 

NDRF teams reach Lachung and Chungthang

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force, one each for Chungthang and Lachung, landed at the two North district towns on Thursday.
The team at Lachung, under the command of Deputy Commandant RC Sharma and comprising 45 Indo Tibetan Border Police personnel, landed there this morning in the wake of the flash flood that occurred the night before. The team also has sniffer dogs with it, informed the Deputy Commandant, KR Meena.
The NDRF team was airdropped at Lachung and are equipped with cutting-tools and materials to cut through stones and concrete to rescue if victims are still trapped. It is informed that part of their operation is to recover 4 bodies believed to buried under the debris of a building there. Besides this, the NDRF team there has also taken up relief materials for distribution among those who are still in Lachung. These materials have been handed over to the district officials.
Another team of NDRF landed at Chungthang this morning under the command of Assistant Commandant Gopi Chand. Their task is to assist in the relief operations underway at the Moonlight Public School at Chungthang, informed ITBP officials.

Flashflood in Lachung; Property damaged, no one injured

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: A flash-flood in a minor stream passing through Lachung, initially denied by district officials but confirmed by ITBP officials and later by the Chief Secretary, occurred at Lachung at 12:15 a.m. on the intervening night of 21 and 22 September. Although property was destroyed when the stream broke its banks, no one was injured in the incident.

Tourism Deptt condoles earthquake casualties, grateful for assistance rendered to stranded tourists

The final batch of tourists airlifted out of Lachung lands at Mangan in North Sikkim on 21 Sept

GANGTOK, 22 Sept: The Tourism & Civil Aviation Department has expressed deep sympathy and condolences to the families of victims of the Sunday earthquake. The Department has also thanked organizations and individuals who assisted in attending to tourists stranded in Lachung and eventually evacuating them. It has further reassured that the tourism infrastructure in all parts of Sikkim, save North Sikkim, has been only partially affected and will be restored in time for the approaching tourist season. In this regard, the Department has appealed to tour operators and tourists from outside the State not to cancel their bookings and visit Sikkim.

Chief Minister's Relief Fund

A massive earthquake of 6.8 in magnitude jolted Sikkim at 6.10 pm on 18th Sept, 2011 with epicenter in North Sikkim. This earthquake has resulted in massive disruption to human life, houses, infrastructure, roads and communication network in the State.
2. Individuals/organizations interested in coming forward to help the people in distress through cash contributions may kindly deposit the amount in the following bank account nos., which have been opened for Chief Minister’s Relief Fund:-
i) Central Bank of India, Gangtok Chief Minister’s relief fund a/c no. 3143635947,IFSC-CBI No.282310 CBI Main Branch (for contributions made from outside the State).
ii) State Bank of Sikkim, Gangtok, Chief Minister’s Relief Fund current a/c 464, SBS Main Branch for contributions received within the State).
3. The non-perishable relief material/ equipments may be dispatched to Shri B.K. Kharel, Secretary, Land revenue-cum- and Relief Commissioner, Government of Sikkim (Contact nos.03592-204995, 9434179141)
4. The office of the Resident Commissioner, New Delhi may also be approached for delivery of these things at Delhi for their onward dispatch to Sikkim.
Shri Arvind Kumar, Principal resident Commissioner
Government of Sikkim, Sikkim House
12 Panchsheel Marg,
Chanakyapuri, New Delh-110021,
Mobile No. 99688 46087,
Office Nos. 26115013/26113747/26883026

No contributions may be made in cash to any individuals/organizations

The September 18 Group

Anyone who wants to help in the relief and rehabilitation initiatives to assist Sikkim’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of the 18 September, 2011 earthquake is invited to log on to facebook
Call the following numbers for more information on how to help:
Raman: 97331 02304
Pema:   97332 70222
Naresh: 94341 69663
Manish: 99330 10000

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trinley Thaye Dorje condoles earthquake deaths, leads aspiration prayers for Sikkim

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje has expressed sorrow over the massive loss of human lives in Sikkim in the Sunday earthquake, informs a press release issued by his Public Relations Officer.
Today, Trinley Thaye Dorje led a special “aspiration prayer” session at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in New Delhi to express solidarity with the earthquake victims. He was joined by senior monks, nuns and a large gathering of Tibetan devotees.

Sikkim Chemists sponsor medical kits for affected regions

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: The Sikkim Chemists Association has announced plans to provide free first aid and medical facilities to earthquake victims wherever required, informs a press release issued by its general secretary, Rajesh Somani.
The Association has advised all its members across the state to rush to quake-affected areas and help victims by providing early medical help.

STCS officials inspect damage to head office, resolve to assist relief measures across Sikkim

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: STCS building located at Deorali has developed a series of severe cracks and taken other damages. Consequently, a team of officials of the Corporation led by their Chairperson MLA Chandra Maya Subba, inspected the office building on 19 September to assess the damage and the threat posed to both the officials working there as well as to its property, informs a press release.

TAAS mourns deaths, pledges assistance

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: The Travel Agents Association of Sikkim (TAAS) has condoled the deaths caused by the earthquake in Sikkim, informs a press release issued by its president, Lukendra Rasaily. “We stand by with the bereaved families of the victims and the people of Sikkim,” the release states.
The inauguration of the Capacity Building Training for the North East Region which was scheduled for 24 September has been postponed to 12 October owing to the calamity, the release further informs.
Pledging a sum of Rs. 10,1,000 to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, the president and executive members of TAAS have appealed to all members and other tourism stakeholders to extend a helping hand to the bereaved families and support the administration at this crucial juncture.

Rotarians put together shelter kits for 100 families

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: The Rotary Clubs of Calcutta Mahanagar in collaboration with the club unit here has put together shelter kits worth Rs. 5 lakh to hand over to 100 affected families in North Sikkim. A press communiqué received from the Rotary Club of Gangtok informs that these kits were despatched from Kolkata today and are expected to the North District headquarter town Mangan in 3 or 4 days. Rotarians from the Gangtok and Calcutta Mahanagar clubs, with permission from the State government and local administration, will distribute these to the affected people.

High Court constitutes Disaster Management Committee

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: A condolence meeting was convened yesterday by the Bar Association of Sikkim, State Legal Services Authority and the Judicial Officers from the District Judiciary presided over by the Acting Chief Justice, Sikkim High Court, Justice SP Wangdi, in the Bar Room of the District Court. The meeting was also attended by the Registrar General, High Court, SE Lepcha, informs a press release.

Update on status of infrastructure and repairs

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: The Sunday temblor littered Sikkim with destroyed infrastructure and the assessment remains a work in progress, working simultaneously with the relief and rescue efforts. The Information & Public Relations Department, Govt of Sikkim, has released the following update:
Roads: There has been much damage inflicted on the road infrastructure. The National Highway 31-A which had been blocked by slides on Sunday night was opened the next day.
The road to North Sikkim has been restored up to the District headquarters, Mangan. The road from Mangan to Lingzya in Dzongu has been restored.

Helicopter sorties evacuate 43 injured persons and 70 tourists from North Sikkim

 GANGTOK, 21 Sept: A disaster management ward has been activated at the armed forces Base Hospital at Bengdubi near Siliguri in West Bengal to attend to people injured in the Sunday earthquake from Sikkim. A press communiqué received from the army informs that thus far, this Base Hospital has performed five major surgeries and 9 minor surgeries.
“Till yesterday, 43 casualties and 70 tourists [including 02 foreigners and children] have been evacuated mainly from Lachung and brought safely to Mangan,” informed Lt. General Vinod Bhatia, General Officer Commanding, 33 Corps, while addressing a press conference at the District Control Room here today.

Gangtok hospitals confident and equipped to handle earthquake emergency

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: As the earthquake shook the entire state on the night of 18 Sept, the two major hospitals of capital – STNM Hospital and the CRH – geared up to attend to the those injured in the incident.
The STNM Hospital, since the night of the disaster, has received more than 180 patients, with a fresh case, a 6 year old boy from 14th Mile [Tsomgo] brought to the hospital this morning with injury complications caused by the earthquake. 
Most of the cases required only first aid and minor attendance and at present only 12 with more severe complications are admitted here, informed the Additional Medical Superintendent, Dr. KB Gurung. The rest were OPD patients who sought medical attention for minor injuries.

Essential commodities to be airdropped to affected areas in North Sikkim


MANGAN, 21 Sept: With most parts of the North district still inaccessible to vehicles and too dangerous to ferry head-loads to, supply of essential commodities is now being planned to be airdropped to the more remote areas. Officials inform that the food godowns at Chungthang and Mangan were well stocked, but provisions at the cut-off remote villages were diminishing fast.
Apart from rescuing the injured and extracting dead bodies from these inaccessible areas, the Food & Civil Supplies Department’s North Sikkim office has managed to make arrangements to reach essential commodities to different inaccessible areas by helicopter.

Labourers flee project sites abandoning even their salaries

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: With many missing and several dead, large sections of the remaining labour force of the hydel project companies up in North Sikkim are fleeing home. Ever since the day of the earthquake, the labourers, mostly from West Bengal, Bihar and Nepal, have been trickling into Mangan on foot from Chungthang and other places. They are, to a large extent, the forgotten lot; neither the administration nor their respective companies seem to have organized anything to return them home.
It is ironic that in a situation as the one that they find themselves in, they have not been paid for the past 4 to 5 months and have not a penny in their pockets. They also find that there is on arrangement made by the administration or anybody else for their journey back home.

First relief reaches Lingzya

After 4 days of having been totally cut off from the rest of the world, Lingza and Bey in the Lepcha reserve of Upper Dzongu got their first window to the world when the route opened for a brief while. Slides have completely cut off the region; however the road was cleared today till the Lingza Falls and army and police personnel headed there at once with food supplies. From the waterfall, they headed onwards on foot. The NDRF team however returned to Mangan from Lingza Falls.

Nothing could have Prepared Sikkim for Sunday

Sikkim is grappling with an unprecedented devastation at present. Even worst-case scenarios would not have projected the logistic nightmare that faces the State Government and the relief and rescue workers in accessing the worst affected areas. Clearing the road to Chungthang, BRO road gangs had to clear debris from an astounding 150 spots to clear a mere 11 kms of the road. Similar challenges obstruct access to areas in remote Dzongu where even pedestrian crossovers are fraught with more dangers than are advisable for even rescue experts to undertake. Even helicopter access is impossible beyond recce hovers and emergency air-drops in most parts.

Shipgyer resident treks across slides to convey fears of cut-off villages

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: Sonam Lepcha of Shipgyer, trekked the treacherous Shipgyer-Mayong route to reach Mangan yesterday and travelled onwards to Gangtok to bring news of the earthquake devastated regions of Dzongu and worried by the rumours they heard of the situation in Gangtok. Relieved that Gangtok escaped the scale of devastation which visited North Sikkim, he carries word that his village and Rammam nearby have suffered severe damage and remain precariously placed. With no telecom network and disrupted transport, the village is completely cut off.

Cut-off Jorethang continues to shudder in memories of Sunday quake

NAMCHI, 21 Sept: The entire State is grappling with a devastation of unprecedented scale and the process is no less daunting for South Sikkim’s border town of Jorethang. This is the only location in the district where a life was lost to the Sunday earthquake when a three-storied building collapsed at Majhitar.
The experience was harrowing in itself and the fact that the town remains without electricity or road connectivity, both lost to landslides and slips triggered by the earthquake, has not helped soothe frayed nerves. Most of the town’s residents seek out open spaces as darkness falls. The worry of depleting food-stocks is also playing on people’s minds with most restaurants having already shut down and kitchens running low on provision in most homes as well.

Desperate families of ‘missing’ people crowd Mangan in hope of news

Bhima Tamang with her daughter at the Mangan Helipad. They camp here everyday hoping that her son is in one of the helicopter evacuation sorties. There has been no good news for them thus far.

Deo Kumari, who has trekked to Naga thrice since Sunday hoping to get some news on her husband's whereabouts.
GANGTOK, 21 Sept: While all of north Sikkim including district officials, army and other personnel are occupied with the death toll and damages, the one thing going unnoticed is the number of missing people. At a conservative estimate, there are about 50 local labourers who were working at the project sites in north Sikkim, mainly at Chungthang, ‘missing’, with their families having had no communication with them since the Sunday earthquake. The district headquarter town of Mangan is clogged with families from villages in and around Mangan and Dikchu who are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones and relatives employed in the Teesta Stage III hydel project.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CM confident that people’s resilience will see Sikkim through

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling with Rahul Gandhi at Lumsey below Gangtok where a recently-completed building toppled over on Sunday night. Rahul Gandhi toured earthquake affected areas in Gangtok and undertook an aerial recce of North Sikkim on Wednesday.


GANGTOK, 21 Sept: Highlighting that the devastation wrecked by the Sunday evening earthquake was of an unprecedented scale, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, while assuring that no effort will be spared to reach relief to the affected people, expressed confidence in the resilience of the Sikkimese people as the character trait which will see Sikkim through this trying time.
Addressing a press briefing here this afternoon, the CM stressed that the people of Sikkim were strong and resourceful and that the State capable and committed to overcome the situation.

Dalai Lama conveys condolences, donates funds towards relief measures

GANGTOK, 21 Sept [IPR]: The Dalai Lama, in a letter to Chief Minister Pawan Chamling yesterday, has conveyed his condolences on the devastation which visited Sikkim in the wake of the Sunday earthquake. As a token of his concern, and support for the rebuilding measures, He has also donated Rs. 5 lakh from the Dalai Lama Trust towards relief work in the affected areas.
In his letter, the Dalai Lama writes: “I was saddened to learn about the loss of lives and the damage to properties that the recent earthquake has caused across isolated Himalayan regions, particularly in Sikkim on my return from a two-week visit to Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil on September 19. I offer my sympathy and condolences to all those families who have been directly affected by what I understand is one of the worst earthquake in recent memory.
As a token of my sympathy and concern over the disaster, I am making a donation of Rs. 5,00,000 from the Dalai Lama Trust towards relief work in the affected areas in your state.
I offer my prayers for those who have lost their lives, the bereaved and all those who are affected by this tragic natural calamity.”

SNT ensures fluid transport services through trying times

GANGTOK, 21 Sept [IPR]: Officers and staff of the Sikkim Nationalised Transport, especially of the Operation division, are actively involved in transportation of the rescue teams along with their equipment to affected places across the State. The SNT has also arranged additional buses to ferry stranded tourist from Gangtok to Siliguri.
SNT has pressed the following services into action since the Sunday earthquake:
1. 18.09.2011/ (Sunday Night): 4 (four) buses deputed to ferry Rescue team from Bagdogra Airport to 224 Transit Camp at Siliguri. These buses are still on duty.
2. 19/9/2011 (Monday): After noon few buses were sent with tourist to Siliguri
3. 20/9/2011 (Tuesday): Six buses were sent down to Siliguri; Six buses were detailed to transport Rescue Teams from Gangtok and Bardang.
4. 21/9/2011 (Wednesday): Four buses and two trucks are detailed for transportation of NDRF team with equipments from Gangtok; Five trucks detailed for transportation of Relief Equipment from Bardang to Mangan; Two buses are plying from Mangan to Singtam.

District Magistrate, North, is also utilizing the buses to carry casualties and victims from various places to Singtam. Even at Siliguri, buses and trucks are kept standby to transport the coming Rescue Team and their equipments.

Ecclesiastical Affairs Deptt collects details on damage to religious institutions


GANGTOK, 21 Sept: The Ecclesiastical Affairs Department has been collecting detail on damages suffered by religious institutions across the State. Thus far, the Department has received information on damages to 11 such establishments across the State. This follows from the appeal released by the department to Duchi/ committee members of all religious institutions in the State to contact its officials with information on damages suffered by their respective religious institutions.
The Department has also written to the District Collectors to forward the list of all the religious institution of their respective districts which have been severely damaged by the earthquake of 18 September duly indicating the extent of damages in each case.
Thus far, the Ecclesiastical Department has received information from the following religious institutions:
1. Chudup Targeythang, Gonpa, Barfok Lingdok, Lower Dzongu, North Sikkim.
2. Rapem Tharpaling Manilhakhang, East Sikkim.
3. Pabyuk Gonpa, East Sikkim
4. Chawang Ani Gonpa, North Sikkim.
5. Pao Hungri Gonpa, West Sikkim.
6. Dupdi Gonpa, West  Sikkim.
7. Labrang Gonpa, North Sikkim.
8. Tumlong Manilhakhang, North Sikkim.
9. Phodong Gonpa and Phodong Manilhakhang.
10. Partial Damage to Guru Rinpoche Statue at Samdruptse, South Sikkim,
11. Rongli Shivalaya Mandir, East Sikkim.

State machinery works hard to reach relief to affected areas

GANGTOK, 21 Sept [IPR]: In so far as the relief measures are concerned, the District administrations are carrying out relief works in full swing and the State Government is now fully in control of the situation.
The worst affected district is the North District where even as of now there is no road communication beyond Mangan. This has severely hampered relief operations. However in pockets where there is no road accessibility helicopters have been deployed to air drop food supplies, medicine and other essential commodities.

Update on status of infrastructure and repairs

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: The Sunday temblor littered Sikkim with destroyed infrastructure and the assessment remains a work in progress, working simultaneously with the relief and rescue efforts. The Information & Public Relations Department, Govt of Sikkim, has released the following update:

Over 2000 houses collapsed; One lakh damaged

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: As more detailed reports arrive on damage to property across Sikkim, the numbers keep rising. As per the latest figures released by the State Government, the number of houses and buildings that have collapsed is now estimated at over 2000. The number of partially damaged houses is around one lakh. The buildings damaged include school buildings, panchayat ghars, BDO offices, hospitals, primary health centres and also private houses.

Official death toll: 68

The State Government released updated figures of lives lost to the Sunday earthquake in Sikkim.

The latest figures pertaining to the death toll is 68 persons dead as on 21.09.2011 at 10:30 hours.
The break up district-wise is as follows:-
North  -   51
East – 12
South- 01
West – 04
The total number of persons injured is over 300.

Army sets up Disaster Management Ward at Bengdubi Base Hospital

GANGTOK, 21 Sept: A disaster management ward has been activated at the armed forces Base Hospital at Bengdubi near Siliguri in West Bengal to attend to people injured in the Sunday earthquake from Sikkim. A press communiqué received from the army informs that thus far, this Base Hospital has performed five major surgeries and 9 minor surgeries.
Army helicopters were pressed into service to evacuate the casualties from remote areas of Sikkim to Bengdubi. Twenty-seven casualties have been evacuated from North as well as East Sikkim, the release informs. 13 casualties are from Army and 14 are civilians.

Away from home, earthquake confusion keeps hostellers and their families anxious

Outside Sikkim University's girls hostel


GANGTOK, 20 Sept: As panic spread across the state, anxiety rose high among both, parents and college and school students residing in hostels here. Disrupted phone connectivity making it impossible to communicate and get information of the conditions on either side.
With most buildings damaged, a number of such hostels across the state have been evacuated. The Scheduled Caste Girls’ Hostel of Sikkim Government College, situated at Gairigaon, Tadong has developed numerous cracks mostly on the second and third floor of the building. The hostel has 25 residents, all of whom left the hostel yesterday to stay with their local guardians.

In the Wake of the Sunday Temblor

Sitting in Gangtok, it is possible to get lulled into believing that normalcy has been restored in Sikkim. The reference here is obviously to the Sunday evening earthquake. Gangtok was rattled, its people unnerved, but apart from the few injuries sustained in the panic which accompanies earthquakes, the capital got away cheap. Many, this newspaper included, had often speculated that Gangtok would be levelled if any temblor substantially stronger than 6 on the Richter Scale hit Sikkim. That did not happen. And now, with electricity restored, internet connectivity returned and water supply trickling back, the capital emanates a false sense of security, even invincibility [with reference to its building practises]. Admittedly, the nerves are still jumpy, but it appears that the sense of loss is not commensurate to what has happened. What is worrying is that if Gangtok does not realise the devastation which has visited Sikkim, it will also not adopt long-term corrective measures required to ensure that the future is better fortified against natural calamities.
The earthquake might have spared Gangtok its ferocity, but the rest of Sikkim has been devastated. Two days since the earthquake, the worst hit areas of North Sikkim, which are not even remote, have not even been reached with outside help. Areas like Chungthang and places further north like Lachen and Lachung and the isolated Dokpas of the Cold Desert remain cut off. While Chungthang, which hosts an under-construction mega hydel project, has suffered the most, this sub-divisional headquarter town battles the situation on its own, without power supply, without telephones and sans any external aid [the first detail of army personnel from Gangtok was flown in only on Tuesday].

TNA structures take substantial damage

Principal's quarter

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: It was indeed a shot of luck for students and teachers that the 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the state on a Sunday and that too in the evening. Most of the buildings at Tashi Namgyal Academy have suffered numerous cracks, some of which could have proved fatal.
A portion of the bedroom ceiling in the principal’s quarters, an old structure made of wood and stone, collapsed when the earth heaved on Sunday. A heap of rocks now stand next to the bed, a part of which was smashed from the impact. The room next to it suffered similar damage. The roof of the cottage, which has developed deep cracks, now stands precariously perched on the top. The school does not have a principal at present, so the cottage was unoccupied when the quake hit.

Stakeholders find Katuk Vidhyasagar building too unsafe to continue classes

 GANGTOK, 20 Sept: The school staff, ward Panchayat, members of the school managing committee and parents/ guardians of Katuk Vidhyasagar Primary School at Lingdum basti under Martam-Rumtek constituency today declared all the three school buildings [two ekra structures and a newly constructed 4-roomed two-storied RCC building] unsafe for students to return to. These were damage in the Sunday evening earthquake and while schools across the state are closed till Wednesday, at least in this school, classes cannot resume.

News arrives of Dzongu’s horror from where 20 dead bodies have been recovered


MANGAN, 20 Sept: The death toll of people killed by landslides triggered by the Sunday earthquake has climbed to 40 in North Sikkim. This figure was 24 till last evening. The numbers spiked today as confirmation arrived of more lives having been lost in Dzongu on Sunday. 16 more deaths were confirmed from the district today even as more are feared killed in the area. Of the 40 dead, only 26 have been identified thus far.
The detailed breakup of the casualties in the district is as follows:
Chungthang-10, Lachung-01, Toong-04, Mangan-01, Domang-01, Lachen-02 from Lachen-Mangan constituency and from the Dzongu constituency- Rammom-02, Salem-Pakel-11, Bey-Pentong-05, Lingdong-Borfok-02 and one BRO Engineer from Theng.
More dead bodies are feared to be still trapped under landslides in areas which have still not been reached due to the slew of landslides which have swamped the roads here. What is more, there are still some remote areas from where no information has been received thus far.

CM visits Nandok, assures all assistance to help village recover

GANGTOK, 20 Sept [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling toured the earthquake affected village of Nandok in East Sikkim today and distributed the ex-gratia payment to the affected families. Along with the ex-gratia the Chief Minister also distributed Indira Awas Yojana forms to families whose houses were completely damaged by the earthquake and who have been rendered homeless. [read “Lagyap water conductor bursts over Nandok, damages 19 houses” in NOW! dated 20 Sept 2011]
The Chief Minister also visited Nandok Secondary School which has been extensively damaged by earthquake.
The Chief Minister assured the public every assistance from the government to help the people overcome this tragic incident.
Addressing media-persons at Nandok, the Chief Minister expressed his satisfaction over the relief measures being undertaken by the various agencies of the State government and the Central government. He also said that the state administration has efficiently handled the situation and further added that it will take about a month for the state to return to normalcy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Speaker meets affected people at Nandok

Recovery operations underway on Rani Khola near 32 No. where five members of a family from the Speaker's constituency, Syari, were caught in their cars by a massive landslide triggered by the Sunday temblor

The Speaker's entourage at Nandok on Tuesday

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: Speaker, KT Gyaltsen, visited victims and inspected affected houses at Nandok near Ranipool today, a village which has lost 19 houses and a secondary school campus when the Sunday earthquake broke the water conductor [700 feet above the village] carrying water to the Lower Lagyap HEP and sent down a disastrous flood of water into the village. Mr. Gyaltsen is also the MLA of the area and was away in New Delhi till Monday evening.
Mr Gyaltsen interacted with the affected people and assured to provide all possible help and assistance to facilitate the rebuilding process at the earliest. He was also accompanied by Power Department officials.
He advised the affected families not to panic and reassured them all issues will be sorted out. He further directed Power Department officials to take up the damage caused by their pipeline seriously so that the people felt safer.

Sikkim and WB CMs meet, resolve to collaborate in rebuilding efforts

GANGTOK, 20 Sept [IPR]: On the way back from a visit to the earthquake affected village of Nandok today, the Chief Minister called on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee at the NHPC Guest House at 5th Mile.
Ms. Banerjee arrived here today in the wake of this incident and to take stock of the situation in Sikkim. She also visited various affected areas in and around Gangtok and took stock of the situation. During the meeting, Ms. Banerjee offered her condolences over the deaths in the state. They discussed the present situation and Mr. Chamling thanked his West Bengal counterpart for her visit to the State during this hour of crisis.
Addressing a joint press conference after the meeting both, the Chief Ministers said that Sikkim and West Bengal were brothers and sisters and will work in tandem and cooperation to combat this situation.

Chamber of Commerce steps up to assist relief efforts

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: The Sikkim Chamber of Commerce has conveyed its condolences to the families of those killed in the Sunday earthquake. “It was an unimaginable natural disaster which has caused huge damage to the lives and properties in our State and other parts of the country,” the SCC conveys in a press communiqué issued today.
The release adds that the Chamber, in association with State Government of Sikkim and disaster relief team, has started a relief camp for victims.
The Chamber has also assured to extend all possible support and cooperation to the State Government in its relief works.

Army evacuates 30 critically injured to Bengdubi Army Hospital

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: In Sikkim, the death toll in the earthquake that rocked Sikkim on Sunday, has now climbed to 52. The figure in the worst affected North Sikkim district has risen to 40 from yesterday’s figure of 24. Relief and rescue operations are continuing on a war footing.
The Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh convened a high level meeting with the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and senior officials at Raj Bhavan this afternoon to take an up date of the situation. The General Officer Commanding -in- Chief of the Eastern Command of the Army, Leuitenent General Bikram Singh called on the Governor and Chief Minister and assured all help in relief and rescue operations.
Breifing newspersons, Lt. General Singh informed that some 5,500 army personnel are undertaking the relief and rescue work in the State. Three thousand of them are deployed in the North district alone. Besides, 200 more have reached Mangan by road this morning.

Work underway to restore road connectivity and power supply

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: Secretary, Information and Public Relations Department, KS Topgay, today informed that relief and restoration works are being carried out on a war footing across the State in response to the damage caused by the Sunday earthquake.
Power supply to the capital town and surrounding areas has been restored, while in some major towns like Rangpo, Singtam and Mangan, power has been restored partially and work continues, he added.


As per the latest figures released by the Sikkim Government, as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the number of dead bodies of victims of the Sunday evening earthquake stands at 52. The district-wise breakup of casualties is as follows:

Gangtok’s water supply lines washed away, homes to receive supply on alternate days

Without water supply for three days, people across Sikkim are being serviced for now by such makeshift arrangements

GANGTOK, 20 Sept [IPR]: The Sunday evening earthquake devastated the water supply lines [the raw water mains] to the Gangtok municipal area. The lines have been snapped at seven places where landslides have damaged or washed away supply pipes of different sizes, informs a press communiqué received from the Water Security & Public Health Engineering Department.
At present, only three pipelines of 6 inch diameter have been restored from local sources for the Gangtok water supply system. This line carries water in smaller quantities than what Gangtok requires on a daily basis, hence the Department has set out temporary schedule under which water will be supplied to houses here on alternate days.

Rs. 39,680 lakh: Deptt’s projection to restore Sikkim roads

NH 31A towards Singtam from Gangtok

Bhanu Path, Gangtok

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: The Roads & Bridges Department, following an inspection and survey of damages to State roads caused by the Sunday evening earthquake and the landslides it triggered, has projected a tentative cost of Rs. 39,680 lakh to complete restoration works.
A press communiqué received from the IPR Department informs that the Roads & Bridges Department has already mobilized manpower and machinery for the restoration of all roads in order to facilitate and speed up rescue and relief operations.
Efforts to make all the affected roads motorable is being undertaken in a phased manner with emphasis on the State Highways and major districts roads, the release informs.
Only restoration of temporary nature is being taken up on war-footing, it is informed.

Eccl Deptt seeks details on damages suffered by religious institutions

GANGTOK, 20 Sept [IPR]: The earthquake of 18 September 2011 has caused extensive damage to life and property in the State, including religious institutions, according to a press release received from Ecclesiastical Department.
The Department has requested Duchi/ Committee members of all religious institutions in the State to contact officials at the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department with any information regarding damages caused to their respective religious institutions.
Sikkim’s premiere monasteries Pemayangste and Tashiding have reported extensive damage as has the Char Dhaam project under construction at Solophok. Reports also indicate that damages have been suffered at Gangtok’s Enchey Monastery and also at Ringhem Monastery above Mangan. Details are still awaited on the status of other religious institutions across the state, many of which remain inaccessible from Sikkim at present.
The department officials can be contacted at:
Secretary: 03592-202069, 206518, 9434169172
Addl. Secretary: 203782, 206593, 9733085471
Joint Director: 202189, 9733353323

CM tours affected areas around Gangtok

GANGTOK, 19 Sept [IPR]: To make an assessment of damages caused to houses and property in the rural and urban areas owing to the 6.8 magnitude earthquake which occurred at about 6.11 pm yesterday, the Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Chamling accompanied by Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, Zilla Adhakshya East, Chief Secretary and  Secretaries and HODs, Members of GMC and East District Administration visited the Tashiling Secretariat, offices in and around the Secretariat complex, Sikkim Press and Police Head Quarter in the morning, today.
The Chief Minister also visited areas in and around Gangtok and gave immediate relief to the locals. He visited the collapsed house and cow shed of Dhan Maya Chettri and the collapsed four and a half storied building of Raju Chhetri at Lumsey, Gangtok. The Chief Minister gave Rs 30,000 to Dhan Maya and Rs 50,000 to Raju Chhetri as ex-gratia payment.

CM takes stock, directs relief and rescue measures

GANGTOK, 19 Sept [IPR]: A high level meeting was convened by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling at Mintokgang on Monday morning. The meeting, which was attended by the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary and Heads of Departments, discussed and took decisions on the recent earthquake that hit the state.
As per first hand information, there have been 36 casualties so far with 7 is East, 4 in West, 1 in South and 26 in North Sikkim. 102 injured persons have been admitted to various hospitals for treatment with 47 injured in North, 38 at STNM hospital Gangtok, 8 at Singtam and 10 in Chungthang, North Sikkim.
The Chief Minister has announced ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh per person for the kith and kin of the deceased, Rs. 50,000 for grievous injuries and Rs. 25,000 for minor injuries.

Lagyap water conductor bursts over Nandok, damages 19 houses


GANGTOK, 19 Sept: A water conductor carrying water to the Lower Lagyap Hydroelectric project here near Ranipool burst about 700 feet above Nandok village under Syari constituency due to the Sunday evening temblor, throwing down a disastrous rush of water into the village and completely damaging 19 houses, including the school there. Quick reflexes and brave intervention of the people ensured that the rush of water which blasted through the cluster of houses did not claim any lives. Only one person suffered minor injuries [requiring no hospitalization] with some pulled out from the raging waters while already waist deep in water and slush.
As much as the residents are relieved that they escaped the earthquake and the mudslide which followed, they are enraged at the Power & Energy Department’s disinterest in their complaints about the durability of the pipelines above. They are convinced that the disaster which visited them last night resulted as much from the earthquake as from the negligence of the Power Department.