Help quake-hit Sikkim, Bhutia tells all Indians

By Abhishek Roy, IANS,

New Delhi : India’s star footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, who was caught in last week’s devastating earthquake in Sikkim, has asked people all over the country to come forward to help his home state and announced plans for a charity match to raise funds.

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Things in the northeast state were getting worse by the day, said Bhutia, who retired from international football last month after leading the national side for a decade. Several people were still trapped in mountain villages and rescue operations were slow as roads had been cut off due to landslides.

Sunday’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake has claimed more than 61 lives in the state. The quake also rattled large parts of India and also jolted Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh.

“Every day things are getting worse as the death toll is rising. Rescue operations are slow and are being hampered by rains and landslides. Roads have been cut off and it is very difficult for rescue workers to get to the far-flung areas, specially north Sikkim, which has been worst hit,” Bhutia, 34, who arrived in Kolkata from his native place Tuesday, told IANS.

“I appeal to the people of India to come forward and help the victims of earthquake. Schools and hospitals have been destroyed and many victims are still trapped in the debris. People have lost their livelihoods,” he said.

Bhutia said he, too, was caught in the quake when he was having tea in his village in Tinkitam in Namchi district in southern Sikkim, some 80 km from Gangtok.

Bhutia said it took him eight hours to reach Gangtok to be with his pregnant wife Madhuri and his 17-month-old twins.

The star footballer said he was in talks with his friends in Bollywood, who had assured him of help to raise funds for the quake victims.

“I am also talking to several other people, and some industrial houses have pledged support. I am also planning to have a charity match involving his club United Sikkim and donate the proceeds to the victims. We have to start everything from scratch,” he said.

Several Bollywood stars will be attending the third edition of Football Players’ Association of India (FPAI) awards in Kolkata Monday. Bhutia, president of FPAI, will be appealing to them for contributions.

(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at [email protected])