Hundreds still stuck in remote villages in Sikkim

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

New Delhi/Gangtok : Even as most of the media focus has been on Manang in north Sikkim that is said to be the worst affected in Sunday’s earthquake, there are around 400 people still stuck in villages beyond where rescue workers are still struggling to reach, a relief coordinator said.

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The earthquake of 6.8 magnitude killed at least 78 people and has left many more injured in Sikkim itself. It had also jolted Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh.

Nearly four days after the quake, rescue operation is still on. However rain and landslides have been acting as hurdles in the process and several places in north Sikkim – the worst affected – are still cut off.

“There are at least three villages beyond Manang which are still cut off after the earthquake and at least 300-400 people are in those villages,” B. B. Rai, of the Voluntary Health Association of Sikkim (VHAS), told IANS on phone from Gangtok.

“Rescue work has been difficult. Our rescue workers have been trying to reach these villages on foot and managed to reach Linzay, beyond Manang, last night at 9.30 p.m.,” he added.

Tay Sakyong and Pentong are the other two villages which are still cut off.

Rai, who has been coordinating the work of different NGOs towards the rescue mission , said that although he was in touch with his team until Wednesday, he has no contact with them now since telecommunication has snapped in those areas.

“Our team members are carrying ready to eat food packets, first aid, torches and other things which are needed urgently for immediate relief. Local volunteers are also pitching in…those volunteering should be good climbers as well because they are going on foot,” Rai said.

“I have come to know that the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team has managed to reach Linzay and then returned to Manang because they couldn’t go beyond. The communication is totally disrupted,” he added.

Swapan Singha of Action Aid India who has been on the field in the rescue mission similarly talked about the challenges facing the survivors and rescue workers.

“The devastation and its impact is still being unearthed and it is clear that survivors have a long haul ahead. In the coming days there will be a huge challenge for even the basic needs of food and water,” Singha said.

“Because of the landslide, the road from Mangan to Chongthang is blocked or flattened at around 30 locations. Electricity and communication is not yet restored. The district administration says that it would take another three-four days for that to be restored. As a result communication and relief operations are very slow,” he added.

Rai further added that even nearly four days after the quake, people are still buried under the debris.

“I have come to know that in one of the villages, five people may still be buried under the debris…the only relieving thought that the survivors in these cut off villages are tribals and know how to survive on wild roots and vegetables…so will be able to sustain,” he said.

“But if they need medical help, they will have to wait,” he added.

NGOs from across the country have come forward to help, Rai further said, but a lot more needs to be done.

“We are having meetings with a number of NGOs…some of them want to know how many people are affected and we are telling them Sikkim is sparsely populated, nevertheless people are in desperate need,” Rai said.

“We haven’t got much query from outside the state for help, so I really hope people pitch in especially in terms of immediate relief like food packets, blankets and all,” he added.

For any help, VHAS can be contacted at [email protected]

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at [email protected])