Gangtok: Battling landslides and torrential rains in quake-hit Sikkim, rescue teams got into full swing on Monday as the death toll in the 6.8 magnitude temblor mounted to 72, including 41 in the Himalayan state.

READ MORE: NE experiences biggest quake in 20 years

Sunday evening earthquake with its epicentre near the border with Nepal, left a trail of devastation damaging roads, buildings and other structures, uprooting mobile phone towers and snapping communication and power lines.
    
After shocks made people panic in several areas forcing them to spend the night outdoors.

The death toll may go up. Union Home Secretary R K Singh said nothing can be ruled out as people may still be trapped under the debris of collapsed houses since rescue teams were still trying hard to reach all villages.
   
Food packets were air dropped in the inaccessible quake-affected areas.

Two medical teams with doctors and paramedics reached worst affected Mangan and Sangthan with the help of helicopters and Border Roads Organisation has been able to reopen the Himalayan state's life line-the National Highway 31-A, Singh said.
    
West and South districts in Sikkim remained mostly inaccessible to the Army in the earlier part of the day due to landslides and inclement weather and rescuers were facing an uphill task to reach these areas, Major General S L Narasimhan, GOC 17 Mountain Division, said.
   
Sikkim accounted for 41 deaths alone, with most casualties taking place in the North District and in towns and villages like Rangpo, Dikchu, Singtam and Chungthang located along the course of Teesta river, officials in the district control room said.
    
The Home Secretary said 10 bodies of employees of Teesta Hydro Electric Project were recovered from the debris in Singtam.
   
The overnight toll climbed to 72 which included nine deaths in West Bengal and eight in Bihar,seven each Nepal and Tibet, official reports said. Over a hundred people have been injured.

22 people travelling in a bus went missing since last evening in north Sikkim. A spokesman of the 17 Mountain Division said the army was still not able to find the missing bus which could be anywhere between a radius of 10 and 15 km along Mangan and Chungthang in north Sikkim. Rescue workers struggled hard to clear boulders which came tumbling down following the quake, blocking roads.
    
Panic-stricken residents of the affected areas spent a sleepless night apprehending more tremors braving cold, chilly winds and pouring rain.
   
An official update in Delhi tonight said NH 55 from Bagdogra to Darjeeling has been restored and the highway from Darjeeling to Nathu La is expected to be cleared by 6 pm on Tuesday.

"10 doctors have been airlifted to Chungthang in North Sikkim and medicines are being airlifted to Bagdogra from where they will be sent to Chungthang. 20 Medical detachments have been deployed by army," the official update said.
   
The optical fiber link to Gangtok which had been disrupted is now restored.
    
The Army has opened relief camps for 2,000 people and ITBP opened camps for 400 others.

"In the entire operation, 5,500 army personnel were engaged apart from 700 ITBP personnel. The BRO has done commendable job by reopening the highway linking Gangtok with Siliguri this afternoon," the Home Secretary said.
    
Singh said Sikkim power corporation has been able to restore power connection partially while landline telephone connection with Sikkim is functioning normally.
    
Nine helicopters were engaged in carrying out rescue and relief operations –
mostly in worst-hit North district -- despite poor weather.
   
Narasimhan said army has launched 'Operation Madad' in Gangtok and other areas."We are also sending teams to Darjeeling and Kalimpong (in West Bengal)," he said.
   
About 400 people from quake-hit areas in North Sikkim have been rescued and taken to safe locations, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) said.

Besides 26 tourists, including international visitors, were also taken to safe places and the road connectivity in the worst-hit Pegong area is likely to be restored soon.
    
"People have been rendered homeless. About 700 personnel are roped in for the rescue mission," ITBP Director General Ranjit Sinha said.
    
He said villages near Pegong were drastically affected in the 6.8 richter scale quake that jolted most of the Northern States.
    
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling visited the quake-hit areas in and around the capital town to assess damages.
    
The Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for those grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.
   
In Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced Rs 2 lakh as ex-gratia to next of kin of those killed in the earthquake and Rs 1lakh each for those seriously injured.
   
Several tourists from West Bengal were stranged in Gangtok, Namchi and Kumgon in Sikkim with most of the connecting roads cracked open or blocked due to landslides.
    
Nine people have died in different areas of north Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited Kurseong in Darjeeling district, said.
   
In Bihar, eight people have died with several houses being damaged in four districts. While Darbhanga alone accounted for four deaths, one each was reported from Nawada, Nalanda, Bhagalpur and Sheorhar districts, officials at the
state headquarters said.
    
Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that at least seven persons have been killed and 22 others injured in Tibet in the quake which has caused landslides and has disrupted traffic, power and water supplies as well as telecommunication in Yadong County, an area 40 km away from Sikkim.
     
Three people were killed at Lainchaur in Kathmandu, two in Sunsari district, and one each in Dhankuta and Sankhuwasabha districts in eastern Nepal, according to Home Ministry sources in the Nepalese capital.

ITBP carried out rescue work relentlessly

More than 700 ITBP personnel, who are carrying out search and rescue operations since Sunday evening in quake-hit areas of north Sikkim, worked relentlessly without caring for food and rest.
   
As the earthquake jolted Sikkim Sunday evening, the ITBP troopers were the first to spread out to various locations affected by the tragedy.
   
"This is our operational area and our teams left their camps as soon as the quake occurred. As the enormity of the tragedy unravelled late in the evening, the troops kept getting engaged from one rescue mission to the other," a senior Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) officer said.

"Hence a number of troops could not even have their dinner and even breakfast," the officer said. The troops, drawn primarily from the 11th battalion of the force, covered an area in the radius of 30 km on foot as vehicles were rendered useless as roads had caved in due to the quake.
   
The ITBP has also deployed a contingent of doctors and paramedic staff to assist the search teams and attend to more than 400 rescued people present in its camps.
   
The force is now replenishing its tired men by sending in reinforcements from nearby areas and arranging food for those who are away from camps.
   
"The rescue operations will be carried out tonight also as many areas are still untouched due to inclement weather and inhospitable terrain," an officer said.
   
Areas like Pegong and Chungthang are still being scoured for possible survivors, he said.
   
The ITBP has also established a control room here which is in constant touch with the force headquarters in Delhi.

The paramilitary force was earlier seen at the forefront in conducting relief work during the last year's cloudburst and flash floods in Leh district.

Death toll rises to eight in Bihar

With six more deaths reported from several areas on Monday , the toll in the powerful earthquake rose to eight in Bihar, official sources said.
   
While Darbhanga accounted for four deaths, one each was killed in Nawada, Nalanda, Bhagalpur and Sheorhar districts.
      
Among those killed in Darbhanga district, one woman drowned when she jumped into a river to save life at Usri village and another of cardiac arrest as she ran out of
her house at Birani.

A man was killed in wall collapse at Kamtaul, while a youth died of head injury after dashing against a wall while running for open space in the same district, officials said.
      
In Bhagalpur a 65-year-old man died of cardiac arrest as panic spread at a market and an elderly woman died when a wall caved in at Orhanpur village in Nawada district.
       
A five-year-old girl died in a wall collapse in Nalanda's Sabanhua village, Pankaj Kumar (8) died in a house collapse at Kahtarwa in Sheohar district, the sources said.

Thousands of troops carry out relief operations in Sikkim
Over 5,000 troops, six transport aircraft and more than 15 helicopters have been deployed by the armed forces in the quake hit Sikkim to carry out relief
operations.
   
Two army personnel died in the quake near Zima in North Sikkim while a Junior Engineer of BRO was reported killed during rescue operation, a Defence Ministry release said here.

"Two MI-17 helicopters of the IAF carried relief material and National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) to Lachen and Mangan, the interior regions of North Sikkim," it said.
   
Landslides have cut off army's 112 brigade deployed in the North Sikkim with the rest of the country.

"The road connecting Gangtok with North Sikkim has been cut off at several places. Our three battalions and one battalion of ITBP with over 4,500 men are present in that area," Army sources said here.
   
They said connectivity has been maintained with the formations there through helicopters and work is on to restore the road, which is crucial for reaching the area bordering China.
   
An alternative route to the area has also been proposed by the Army but the project is not yet finalised due to lack of environmental clearances, the sources said.
   
The Ministry said that over 5,000 army personnel, including ten columns of army engineers each comprising 15-20 personnel, were pressed into action immediately after the first tremor was felt.
   
"Troops stationed in the area have provided shelter to over 1,500 people including 1,000 civilians at Gangtok and 200 civilians at Darjeeling," it said.

HUPA offers to re-build houses of economically weak in Sikkim

Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja offered assistance to Sikkim government and other quake affected states in reconstruction of houses belonging to the economically weaker sections and public infrastructure damaged in the temblor.
    
Expressing grief over the loss of lives in last evening's earthquake in Sikkim and other states, Selja announced that HUDCO will take up construction of houses for the poor affected families out of the Corporate Social Responsibility
(CSR) fund.
   
These houses would be built with the earth quake resistant features, her ministry said.
   
The assistance will be in re-construction and re-building of the damaged houses and public infrastructure after survey and assessment.
   
"The Minister has also offered low interest HUDCO loan assistance to the state governments for re-construction of public assets and other infrastructure damaged by the earth quake," a ministry official said.

Quake toll rises to 7 in Bengal

The West Bengal government  apprised the Centre of the situation arising out of the earthquake that hit five districts of the state where the death toll has risen to seven.
   
During a video conference with Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, the state's Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh informed him of the details of the rescue and relief operations undertaken in the affected areas.
   
Ghosh told reporters at the state secretariat that he had discussed with Seth how the state government could assist quake-hit Sikkim in its hour of crisis.
   
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also said the state government is willing to assist Sikkim to tide over the crisis.
   
The Chief Secretary said seven deaths have so far been reported from north Bengal districts.
   
The break-up of death toll stood as Kalimpong (2), North Dinajpur (2), Siligur, Kurseong and Jalpaiguri (1 each).
   
Earlier, Ghosh along with State Home Secretary G D Gautama called on Governor M K Narayanan and briefed him of the situation in the quake-affected districts.

Braving cold, rain people spend night outside after quake
Braving cold and pouring rain, Frightened residents spent the night outside their homes in the areas rocked by yesterday's quake in Sikkim and West Bengal.
     
Roads were torn up, buildings cracked, phone towers and electricity posts toppled in the 6.8 magnitude quake which triggered such a panic that an official said injured people refused to get themselves admitted at Gangtok's STNM Hospital out of fear after its walls developed several cracks.
     
Several tourists from West Bengal were stranded in Gangtok, Namchi and Kumgon in Sikkim with most of the connecting roads severely damaged, cracked open and blocked due to landslides.
     
Shelters were provided by authorities to the affected people rendered homeless while the Army opened kitchens and served food to around 2,000 people in and around Gangtok.
     
Schools, colleges and government offices were closed in the quake-hit areas today and only a few shops remained open.
     
People in the hill town of Darjeeling in West Bengal and several towns in Sikkim left the main doors of their homes open fearing aftershocks.
     
"We were all ready to take refuge in the open should there be more quakes ... It was scary as there was total darkness in the absence of electricity in many areas," Angshuman Talukdar, a resident of Darjeeling said.
     
In many areas, power returned at around 10.30 pm, but a large number of people preferred to brave the cold and pouring rains instead of returning to their homes.
      
Talukdar, a resident of an apartment building near the station, said a large number of people preferred to stay in the government school compounds as several homes had developed cracks. The staircase of his five-storied apartment building has partially collapsed under the impact of the tremor.
      
"We felt several small earthquakes last evening after the big one but none today ... The people are aware that this region is in high seismic zone and are therefore more scared," he said.
      
Officials said that around 70 per cent of all houses and buildings in Sikkim were damaged.
     
"Around 1,000 structures have collapsed while a total of one lakh buildings and houses have been damaged," the state government said.
      
The state secretariat building and at Tashiling and Sadar police station is also damaged.
       
A group of 14 tourists were rescued by the Army from North Sikkim last night, officials in the district control room in Gangtok said. They have been admitted to Chungthang army hospital.
       
The quake which also jolted Jharkand left a 70-foot-long crack on the NH-75 in Latehar district, disrupting vehicular traffic."

The crack came up after the tremor in Latehar district last evening," Sadar Sub-divisional Officer Rajesh Pathak told newsmen in Latehar.
      
 "The tremor left a 70-foot long/10-foot deep crater on the road disrupting traffic near Sikni Colliery. Road restoration work is on," he added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Agencies)