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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quake fails to hit tourism in Hills.....116 Death toll, 73 in Sikkim 400 foreign tourists stranded... Nine villages still inaccessible...No trace of 120 people of a North Sikkim village damages estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore...Centre fails disaster test in calamity zones...Plateau worry for army......Standing tall defying all rules Buildings flout norms in seismic zones...Relief reaches worst quake-hit areas...OPERATION CONTINUING ON WAR FOOTING: PAWAN CHAMLING...Army operation continues in Sikkim for the 3rd Day ....Rahul Gandhi in Sikkim...Where rocks are more dangerous than canons...Sikkim quake: Out in the open, third night in a row..Scores of bodies found in rubble....How do you stop nature?...52.5 crore loss in Kalimpong, MPS, MLAs visit affected area...'Sikkim quake may have been induced by dams across Teesta'...400 राहत शिविर बसाइयो

Quake fails to hit tourism in Hills

SNS, DARJEELING, 21 SEPT: Despite the recent earthquake there has been no cancellation in booking for the festive season in the Hills though enquiries are pouring in from visitors, said most of the hoteliers in Darjeeling.“There is widespread rumour that tourists have started cancelling their bookings in many hotels across the Hills, but that is not true. So far we have not received any calls for cancellation though we are getting enquiries if it would be safe to travel to the region,” said Mr Suresh Periwal, the director of Clubside Tours and Travels and chairman of the north Bengal and Sikkim unit of the Indian Association of Tour Operators.
Just a day after the earthquake rocked the Hills, several tourists along with outstation students were seen fleeing from the region. However, with things returning to normal the tourism industry hopes that this festive season will not be as bad. The industry has already been hit hard by three years of continuous agitation. Mr Periwal added that false information provided by a part of the media might influence the tourism industry in an adverse way. “Yesterday a news channel was reporting that one lakh houses have been damaged in the Hills. I am a resident of Darjeeling I know that the information is completely false and if such things continue, it might affect our business," added Mr Periwal.
The district magistrate of Darjeeling, Dr S Mohan, on being asked whether it would be safe for tourists to visit the Hills, he said: “The tourist have nothing to worry about. It is completely safe for them to travel here." He added that the roads that have been blocked by landslides following the earthquake have been cleared. The manager of the local Swiss Hotel, Mr Paras Dahal, said that reservations in his hotel have not yet been cancelled. “I received a few enquiry calls but nobody has called to cancel their booking. We have informed them the infrastructure has not been hampered much, including water supply," he said. Another hotel manager, Mr Rajesh Rajak of hotel Anand Palace in Darjeeling. echoed him.
Compared to the last few years, there has been a considerable rise in hotel bookings in the Hills, starting from the first week of October. Other related establishments, including, restaurants, transport, shops and so on, are also expecting a rise in business.
Rahul Gandhi reaches Sikkim, to visit earthquake-hit areas
TNN, Sep 21, 2011:GANGTOK: Rahul Gandhi reached Sikkim on Wednesday morning to visit the earthquake -affected areas in the state.
The Congress general secretary will also meet victims and their families affected by the earthquake.
He is expected to visit hospitals where the victims are undergoing treatment.
Rahul Gandhi in Sikkim
UNI,Siliguri/Sikkim/Gangtok, Sep 21 : All India Congress Committee General Secretary Rahul Gandhi today arrived in Sikkim to assess the post-quake situation and meet victims.
Mr Gandhi landed at Bagdogra airport at around 0810 hours, about an hour behind schedule due to inclement weather.From Bagdogra, nearly 40 minutes later, he took an army helicopter and reached Gangtok at around 1000 hours.
Mr Gandhi will visit different parts of Sikkim to take stock of relief and rescue operations and also held meeting with local administration.He is expected to fly back to Delhi today itself.
116 Death toll, 73 in Sikkim, 400 foreign tourists stranded
PTI, Sep 21, 2011, MANGAN (SIKKIM): Twenty more bodies were recovered in quake-hit Sikkim taking the toll in Sunday's powerful 6.8 magnitude temblor to 112 amid reports that 400 foreign tourists were stranded in the worst-affected north district.
The toll is likely to go up further with rescue teams still to reach about 15 villages in the north district.
While the toll rose from 53 to 73 in Sikkim, West Bengal has reported 15 deaths, 9 in Bihar, 11 in Nepal, 1 in Bhutan and 7 in Tibet.
Officials said rescue teams found six bodies in East Sikkim and 14 in North as they managed to enter Dzongu from Mangan, the headquarters of North Sikkim where the strong quake was epicentred.
About 400 foreign tourists were stranded in North Sikkim and efforts were underway to reach them, a Union Home Ministry official said.
Defence forces struggled hard to clear mud, rocks and boulders blocking roads to reach the affected areas.
In Lalchung, injured and stranded passengers of a bus were rescued in an army helicopter in a daring operation as there was no place to land.
Two Brigadiers jumped down nearly seven to 10 feet from the chopper to make for the passengers, one of whom was seriously injured while another had died. The passengers were helped into the hovering aircraft.
North district alone accounted for 50 deaths, while 18 people died in East district, four in West and one in South district. Over 300 people were injured, the sources said.
Rescue teams which include personnel of the army, NDRF and local people would have to clear at least 30 to 40 major roads blocks created by debris of landslides to reach about 15 major villages.
The death toll in Sunday's 6.9 magnitude earthquake reached 57 till last night.
Bijay Bantawa from Face book:
Congress (I) General Secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Sikkim, he visited the earthquake victim in Manipal Referral Hospital, visited Lumsay, Tadong at earthquake damage building. He also had ariel view of of worst hit North Sikkim where the dead body of more than 41 persons have been recovered so far. He assured to extend all co-operation to Sikkim from Centre to deal with the situation.
Northeast quake: No trace of 120 people of a North Sikkim village
Saibal Gupta, PTI, Sep 21, 2011:There is still no trace of 120 residents of Bay village in North Sikkim, located between Lachung and Chungthang, after Sunday's powerful quake even as a flash flood at Lachung poses a fresh threat of landslides.
"We find no trace as yet of 120 people living in 14 huts at Bay village as the area is totally devastated. There is a lot of debris ... and the residents have gone missing," National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team in-charge Nisith Upadhyay said.
He said four NDRF teams have fanned out to worst-hit Lingu, Sakyang, Pentong and Bay villages in North Sikkim which have been rendered almost inaccessible after the quake.
"We are afraid some bodies may have been trapped under the flattened houses as boulders are lying strewn all over," he added.
According to SR Bhutia, Deputy Director of Horticultural Society of Sikkim, who led the four teams, "we haven't found any person in the village. We are searching for them."
Meanwhile, a flash flood at Lachung Chu river has posed a threat of fresh landslides at Lachung, one of the worst-hit by the quake, according to a Geological Survey of India officer.
"The flash flood will loosen the soil and may trigger fresh landslides in the area," the GSI's Sikkim zone officer said.

Army rescue operation in Sikkim

(Photo: PIB)
Sikkim quake: Nine villages still inaccessible, damages estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore 
PTI, Sep 21, 2011, GANGTOK: The loss from Sunday's devastating earthquake in Sikkim is estimated to be around Rs one lakh crore, Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said on Wednesday, while urging the Centre to grant a special package  "I think loss and damage will be not less than Rs one lakh crore. We will assess thoroughly the loss of properties," Chamling said at a press conference here.  "We are trying to assess the (exact) loss. We will do it in about 10 days and will submit a report and ask for a special package from the Centre," Chamling said.  68 people have so far died in the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that caused havoc in the small Himalayan state. 
The chief minister announced compensation of Rs five lakh to the kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured.  Chamling said that it would take a further two to three days to reach all places in the remote North Sikkim district.  "Nine villages are still totally inaccessible," he said.  On AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's visit this morning, he said, "We are hopeful. He has already made announcement to help the victims and the government of Sikkim.  "We expect help from him at this hour," Chamling said about Gandhi's brief visit to Sikkim Manipal Hospital here and to neighbouring Lopse.  Asked how prepared Sikkim was to tackle such a situation being an earthquake-prone state, the chief minister said, "The government and people of Sikkim are capable of tackling any such natural calamity."  Though the road from the Sikkim capital to Mangan, the epicentre of the quake located 55 km from here, has been reopened, roads further north are still closed owing to landslides from Mangan to Chungthang.
Relief reaches worst quake-hit areas 
TNN, Sep 21, 2011, NEW DELHI: Two days after the earthquake that hit Sikkim, the road connecting the worst affected town of Mangan was reopened on Tuesday. And as relief and rescue teams started reaching the worst affected interior areas of the state, the death toll is likely to mount. "The road from Gangtok to Mangan is open. The number of deaths as reported by the Sikkim government is 50. This may increase further as rescue and relief teams reach the interiors," Union home secretary R K Singh said on Tuesday.
Even as large-scale rescue and relief work continues under 'Operation Trishakti Madad' launched by the armed forces, the strategic 14,140-feet Nathu La mountain pass, which connects Sikkim with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, remains physically cut-off from the rest of the country.
Efforts are in progress to repair the strategic road from Gangtok to Nathu La near the India-China border, said Army's deputy director general of military operations, Brigadier Ranbir Singh
Military and ITBP personnel have, meanwhile, managed to reach most of the far-flung areas devastated by the earthquake. 

"An Army contingent, in fact, also managed to reach Mangan, the epicenter of the earthquake, with troops providing food and medicines to the local population," said Brigadier Singh. IAF, on its part, has conducted 34 sorties of transport aircraft and helicopters in the last two days, ferrying over 23 tonnes of relief material and personnel, including doctors and army jawans to the affected areas. The sorties are taking place from Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Agra, with Bagdogra in West Bengal made as the hub of the relief operations. 
The home secretary said five teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were in Gangtok. One of them left for Mangan on Tuesday morning while arrangements are being made to airlift another NDRF team to Chungthan. Besides, the home secretary said, two helicopters were being pressed into service so that officials of NDRF and the Sikkim government can conduct an aerial survey of affected areas to ascertain the damage and casualties. The Sikkim government has conveyed that they have opened relief camps in each district and senior secretaries of the state government have been deputed in each district, he added. The home ministry too has deputed a joint secretary to Sikkim to coordinate the relief operations. "Food packets have been airdropped in the northern areas of North District this morning," Singh said.
Earthquake update as at 1 P.M. Today

Governor B P Singh visited the injured at TNM Hospital
A 5 storied building collapsed at Jorethang: Photo-Unified Sikkim, FB
PIB, KalimNews, Gangtok, 21 Sept 1 pm:
 The Number of deaths as reported by the State Government of Sikkim is 57. This may increase further as rescue and release teams reach further into interior areas. The break-up of death toll is as follows- East District- 12, North District-40, West District -04 and South District-01. 58 persons are injured.
 A total of 700 houses have reportedly collapsed. About 500 houses have been reported to be substantially damaged. In other areas also, extensive damage to houses has been reported. The State Govt will be able to give the exact the number after ascertaining the damage through physical verification.
 About 400 foreigners are reported to be stranded in North Sikkim.
 The State Govt. has opened relief camps in each district. 2700 and 550 people have been provided shelter into Army camps and ITBP camp (Pengong) respectively.
 A total of 5500 Army personnel have been deployed for rescue and relief operation. 60 villages have been physically covered by the team of Army Jawans in their search and rescue operation. 2 teams of 30 Army Jawans each with RMOs are located in Mangan and Chungthan.
 30 sorties have been done by helicopters provided by the Ministry of Defence for airdropping and reconnaissance.
 Food packets have been airdropped in the northern part of North district at a place called Myang. Another supply of food packets is being dropped today.
 An aerial survey of affected was carried out by officers of the State Govt and NDRF on 20th Sept, 2011 to identify and list the affected villages.
 The road between Mangan and Chungthan (16 landslides ) has been opened upto 12 kilometer further north of Mangan.
 The Border Roads Organization and Army Engineers are working for restoration of different roads.
 Sikkim has 15 sub-stations of 66 kilowatt, out of which 6 were down. 3 however, have been restored.
 All the transmission lines and sub-stations of power grid have been restored.
 Power supply is normal except in the northern part of North district.
 Landline and microwave links are operational. The present status of mobile towers/BTS is as follows, Vodafone-53(167), Reliance-12(54), Idea-08(42), Aircell-21(55), Airtel-15(69), BSNL-24(122).
 Sufficient stock of essential commodities such as foodgrains, petroleum products and LPG are available in the State.
 1000 nos. of blankets, 400 nos. of extendable tents and 200 nos. of arctic tents are being dispatched to the affected areas.
The Centre has constituted an inter-Ministerial team to visit the affected places in the State and give its recommendations for assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund.
PIB, KalimNews, Gangtok, 21st September, 2011In Sikkim, the number of death toll in Sunday’s massive earthquake has now risen to 68 with a maximum of 51 deaths reported in the worst hit North district alone. 300 people who have suffered injuries in the earthquake are undergoing treatment in hospitals and rescue and relief operations are going on war footing in the affected places. Addressing a press conference in Gangtok this afternoon, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling said the state has suffered an estimated Rupees one lakh crores of damage in the wake of the unprecedented earthquake in the state that recorded 6.8 on the Richter scale. He said that the state will assess the actual extend of damagecaused to the properties and infrastructure in the next ten days and seek a special package from the central government.
Shri Chamling said over 2000 houses have collapsed in different parts of the state and about one lakh houses have suffered damages. He said nine villages in the worst affected North district remained cut off from the rest of the state and supply of essential commodities have been rendered difficult. Power supply in most parts of the state except in the areas beyond Mangan, have been restored, but water supply to Gangtok city has been severely disrupted due to landslides. The Chief Minister has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the earthquake and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured.
The Chief Minister expressed his gratitude to Government of India and the Army for their prompt action in launching rescue and relief operations and restoration of road commutation on National Highway 31‘A’. He added that the state government is well equipped and people are capable of dealing with any situation. In reply to a question the Chief Minister said Congress MP Rahul Gandhi visited Sikkim today to express his solidarity with the government and people of Sikkim in their hour of crisis and we are grateful to his visit. In reply to a question, Shri Chamling said hydro power projects have nothing to do with the damage caused by earthquake as it is a natural calamity. The Chief Minister said barring North Sikkim, tourists from outside can visit any part of the state during the upcoming tourist season beginning from October. 

Sikkim quake: Out in the open, third night in a row
Jaideep Mazumdar, TNN,Sep 21, 2011, GANGTOK: It's been 48 hours since the quake. But as darkness envelopes the battered and bruised hills of this tiny Himalayan state, its traumatized residents come out on open grounds.
Rumours have it that another tremor would shake the hills. And with almost 90% of the buildings here damaged by Sunday evening's earthquake and developing cracks, its occupants are fearful of spending a night inside them. So deep is the fear that thousands of people throng open public spaces after dusk, armed with blankets, pillows, mattresses, flasks full of steaming tea and dry food packets to spend the night there.
Rumours of astrologers predicting another quake at night are fuelling the scare. Announcements by state authorities that earthquakes are not predictable and urging people against believing in or spreading rumours have had little effect. Radio jockeys on popular FM channels have also chipped in and urged listeners to spend their nights in their homes, but have been largely ignored.
Tuesday night was the third consecutive one that Maya Pradhan spent at Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Gangtok's popular hangout and its city square. Pradhan, an employee of the state industries department, told TOI her third floor apartment on Palzor Stadium Road had developed wide cracks after Sunday's quake. "All the 15 apartments in the five-storeyed building have developed cracks. It too scary to sleep inside. If another earthquake strikes, the building may go crashing down the hill," she said.
Sikkim earthquake: 35 tourists airlifted, toll crosses 90
PTI, Sep 21, 2011, MANGAN/GANGTOK: Thirty-five tourists, including two from Norway, were airlifted on Wednesday by the Army from Lachung village, one of the worst-hit quake areas in Sikkim.
Also airlifted were 16 people injured in the quake, army sources said.
The tourists, some of whom were wounded, were airlifted from Ringzim helipad here.
Paljor Lachungpa, who is coordinating the evacuation, said Lachen was still cut off and more tourists could be airlifted from Chungthang later in the day. The tourists were in a state of shock.
Bishnupriya Dutta, a housewife from Bhubaneswar touring Sikkim with eight family members, including two children, was barely able to narrate the harrowing experience.
She was on way to Lachung from Lachen when the quake struck. "The car was shaking violently and the driver said there was a earthquake ... We were all terribly scared."
Dutta, who along with her family was staying at an army camp at Bichhu for the past three nights, said, "On way here today I saw a large number of houses damaged and the roads had caved in ... I thanked God".
Asked whether she would return to Sikkim in future, her answer was "Never."
"I cannot forget all my life the fear and the pitch darkness of that night when the quake struck and we moved to Bichhu for shelter in the army camp," she said.
Toll mounts : Meanwhile, the death toll in the state rose to 60 overnight with seven more bodies recovered from East and North Sikkim. Official sources said today that six bodies were recovered from East Sikkim.
The overall deaths in the Sunday disaster has crossed 90, with 18 deaths reported from other parts of the country, eight in Nepal and seven in southern Tibet.
However, a bus missing with 24 passengers and crew has been rescued from Tung with all but one passenger alive.
Army, NDRF and disaster management personnel walked to Tung, between quake epi-centre Mangan and worst-hit Chungthang and rescued the people in the bus last night, the sources said.
Rescue teams are yet to reach Chungthang which is in the mountains.
Villagers of Dikchu Valley were very worried in the absence of any communication from their menfolk who work in the Teesta project at Chungthang, which is about 12 km away, since the calamity struck.
A large number of houses had either collapsed or were badly damaged by Sunday's temblor and at least 10 major cracks were seen on the Singtam-Dikchu road.
Most of the people in Dikchu are staying in open areas for fear of aftershocks.
There was, however, no threat to the Teesta hydel project stage 5, situated here as the NHPC authorities had opened the sluice gates and the water level had gone down, sources in the company said.

Where rocks are more dangerous than canons
Caesar Mandal, TNN, Sep 21, 2011: MANGAN (SIKKIM): As Army jawans drilled and blasted their way to Mangan, the headquarters of the North Sikkim district, they realized that the precise epicenter of the earthquake was still 50km north. But seeing the utter destruction in Mangan, fears about the state of victims around the core area of destruction grew exponentially.
As the Army, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel used explosives to blow up boulders, distraught locals trying to reach their families could do nothing but wait. They don't yet know whether their relatives are alive or dead.
"This area is still cut off. We fear the death toll will rise," said Sikkim DGP Jasbir Singh. "Even now, we only have a sketchy picture of the area." When TOI reached Mangan on Tuesday, some 68km from Gangtok, the sights were horrifying. On the outskirts, all that was left of a church as a 15-foot-high pile of rubble.
There, Army jawans pulled out the crumpled body of an elderly woman. A wail went up. She was the wife of the pastor and had run into the church for refuge. It must have seemed like apocalypse - the blinding rain, pitch dark, the earth trembling, and boulders barreling into houses.
The brick-and-mortar church collapsed like a house of cards, crushing the woman. The sight moved even hardened Army and ITBP jawans. Giant rocks blocked roads and flattened entire localities. They have been soldiering on without break for the last 36 hours, after marching non-stop for over a day from their camps. And they have no clue about what happened to their colleagues in places like Chungthang, Lachung or Lachen. ITBP officers have no news of their men in Pegong, where their headquarter collapsed. All communication has fallen silent.
We have not been able to contact anyone since Sunday evening. God knows how they are," said an Army jawan. Then, even as a doctor checked the blood pressure of an unconscious soldier, he was back on his feet within minutes, clearing boulder.
"These rocks are more dangerous than enemy canon shells. Last night, we cleared a road but the boulders started falling again. In half an hour, the road got blocked again," said a subedar major.
In the morning, TOI spoke to an Army team at Bittu, around 12km from Gangtok, as they cleared an 80-foot pile of debris. "According to our reconnoitering teams, at least 14 major landslides have cut off the Gangtok-Mangan road," said an officer. "This is the first of them, and perhaps the smallest." A few yards away, 200 NDRF personnel waited impatiently for the boulders to be blown. They have been waiting since being brought from Kolkata on Monday.
When a radio message flashed that the Army had managed to restore connection to Mangan through another route via Singtam in East Sikkim, the NDRF men left swiftly. They would be the first expert rescue team to reach the area. The convoy crept up as if on a secret mission, moving silently for fear of disturbing overhanging boulders.
The dying light of the sun silhouetted a group of 10 people against the skyline as they stumbled and skidded down a mountain of debris, walking towards Mangan. Eyes bloodshot, hands scarred and bloodied from smashing rocks, they walked like zombies.
Sikkim earthquake: Scores of bodies found in rubble
Amalendu Kundu & Caesar Mandal, TNN, Sep 21, 2011:MANGAN/GANGTOK: A grimmer picture of devastation in quake-hit Sikkim emerged on Tuesday as soldiers blasted boulders blocking hill roads and reached isolated areas like Mangan, 65km from Gangtok. With help reaching faraway regions, the body count from Sunday's temblor raced passed 130 and could rise as many more are feared trapped.
Officially, Sikkim has so far confirmed 58 deaths, the rest of the casualties being from Bhutan, Nepal, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. But as shocking details emerged, authorities feared at least 40 workers at a hydel power plant site in North Sikkim's Saffo might have perished within minutes, caught in a mountain duct when the tectonic plates under the lower Himalayas shook. Dozens others are missing and feared trapped in the same hydel project site and there's no confirmation of the number of people engaged there.
Saffo is 9km downstream from Chungthang and the accident site is around 30km downstream from the popular tourist destination Lachen. An engineer working for the Hyderabad-based Athena Group, which is handling the project, said 15 workers had died at the site and at least 10 were missing. The tragedy came to light on Tuesday when officials of the Teesta Urja Co-a joint venture between the Hyderabad-based company and the Sikkim Power Department-chartered a chopper to airlift the body of D D Gupta, a senior officer.
Government sources said when they learnt of the airlift, they asked company officials where they had found Gupta's body. The officials were initially hesitant, but ultimately revealed the shocking story. Gupta, a quality control officer, had entered an access tunnel leading to the 1,200 MW Teesta Stage III Hydel Project site deep in the mountain recess.
When the temblor struck about 40 workers were drilling through the mountain to carry water from the dam at Chungthang, 100km from Gangtok, to the generation plant downstream at Mangan, Athena officials suspect. "It appears that some tunnels collapsed burying the men deep in the mountain," a government source said.
"It is unlikely that any of the workers survived the earthquake (that measured 6.8 on the Richter scale). And even if they did, it's doubtful that they'd hold out for very long. The area is mountainous and it will take days before tunnels are re-excavated and the bodies pulled out," a government official said.
Till late Tuesday afternoon, the company maintained that the construction site was intact and about eight people-six labourers and two junior engineers-had died when a boulder crushed their car near Saffo. But, now there are fears that Teesta Urja hasn't come out with the full disaster story. Several hundred workers are engaged at the construction site. A company official denied any tunnel had collapsed at Saffo.
Elsewhere, rescue teams inched close to the quake epicenter and columns of soldiers, riding trucks, tractors and earthmovers and armed with drills, cutters and pick-axes, completed an arduous trek to enter Mangan, the flattened headquarters of the North Sikkim district.
Mangan was a picture of devastation as many anxious and distraught residents waited as National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) personnel with Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Indian Army men toiled to clear debris from blocked roads. The army used explosives to blow up boulder piles, some as tall as three-story buildings. In Gangtok, Sikkim DGP Jasbir Singh said he feared the toll could go much higher. "Yes, large areas are still cut off. We fear the toll could rise."
At Mangan, brick and mortar churches had collapsed, giant boulders blocked roads and landslides had flattened entire localities. "On reaching Mangan, we realized the epicenter was 50km north, where villages and habitations have suffered the worst damage," an NDRF officer said. Rescue teams set off for the area but their progress was stopped by a fresh landslide.
Earthquake toll 74 as rain, slides hamper rescue
Amalendu Kundu & Caesar Mandal, TNN: SINGTAM (SIKKIM)/GANGTOK: Rescuers battled heavy rains and cleared dozens of landslides while making their way to Sikkim, the ground zero of Sunday evening's 6.8 magnitude earthquake that has so far claimed 74 lives across three countries - India, Nepal and China (Tibet).
According to late-night reports, at least 58 people were killed and hundreds injured in Sikkim, Bengal and Bihar, in addition to nine deaths in Nepal and seven in Tibet. The toll is likely to rise, say rescuers. In Sikkim, the toll had reached 41. The maximum casualties have been in Rangpo, Dikchu, Singtam and Chungthang in north Sikkim. Ten persons have died in Bengal and seven in Bihar.
TOI reached some of the worst-affected areas, following rescue convoys as they battled impossible odds. Every now and then progress was halted by massive landslides. Virtually nothing is left intact on the 100-km Gangtok-Chungthang road. NH-31A, the highway to Gangtok, was cleared by late afternoon. Roads and bridges between Meeli and Namchi in south Sikkim and Rawangla in west Sikkim have been severely damaged. Tourists have been warned not to venture beyond Gangtok.
Nearly 6,000 Army and paramilitary forces personnel were deployed for relief operations in Sikkim but till Monday evening only a handful could reach Mangan, the quake's epicenter, and surrounding areas of north and west Sikkim, where the maximum damage has been reported.
The majority of the force, with equipment and vital supplies, were stuck at various locations with fallen trees, downed power lines and landslides - evidence of the deadliest earthquake to hit India in a decade - making major routes inaccessible. "The biggest challenge now is to get rescue teams to the affected areas," said Sikkim information minister C B Karki.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team that landed at Bagdogra (near Siliguri in north Bengal) early on Monday had to wait till afternoon for the Gangtok road to be cleared. The team spent the night in Gangtok from where they will proceed to Mangan on Tuesday morning, hoping to reach the worst-hit areas by late evening.
"Our first task will be to restore communications links. Till then, the extent of damage will not be known," an officer said.
The NH31, the lifeline to the Northeast, was a trail of devastation. TOI saw a car crushed like a matchbox on the highway. The quake and landslides hit with such force that its tyres had simply exploded.
Through the day, torrential rain and low clouds hampered movement of air supplies and threatened to trigger more mudslides. More rain is forecast for Tuesday in Sikkim and north Bengal.
Nearly everyone in Sikkim and Darjeeling spent Sunday night in the open as aftershocks triggered fears of a second wave of destruction. The earthquake damaged more than 1 lakh of the 1.2 lakh houses in Gangtok. Key buildings like the state secretariat, police headquarters and hospital have developed cracks.
Meanwhile, Nepal began to take stock of the havoc created by Sunday's earthquake, the biggest since 1934. There were reports of the human toll rising to nine, with some claiming 10 deaths. The home ministry and police were yet to officially confirm the figures.
In Sikkim, while the Army brought in special forces personnel and ordered troops from high-altitude camps to trek to remote parts, it was clear that top officials had no clear idea of the extent of damage. Army casualties may also go up as many of the high-altitude camps along the Line of Actual Control with Tibet are close to the epicentre.
Despite the hurdles, a few Army teams worked through Sunday night to reach the north and east Sikkim, clearing concrete slabs, bricks and mud to rescue people trapped under the debris of their own houses flattened by the quake. Late in the night, the Army rescued 14 tourists from north Sikkim, who are now being treated at a military hospital in Chungthang.
Power, water and telecommunication lines continue to be affected. Power was restored in Gangtok and some other areas after engineers gave the go-ahead to the Teesta unit. Schools will be shut for three days and offices have been asked to function only if the buildings have been declared safe.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee reached out to the affected areas in Kurseong on Monday, and promised all help to restore normal life. The Bengal government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the families of the dead. Mamata may visit Sikkim on Tuesday.
Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling held an emergency meeting with police chiefs and department secretaries to take stock of relief and rescue operations. The families of the dead will get a compensation of Rs 5 lakh and the injured Rs 50,000, he said. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already announced Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for families of those who had died and Rs 1 lakh each for the seriously injured.
Two top Army officers - 33 Corps commander Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia and GOC 17 Mountain Division Maj Gen SL Narsimhan - are stationed in Gangtok to oversee operations in which over 2,000 officers and soldiers have been deployed. "Our men have reached most of the populated areas in north and east Sikkim and most of the casualties have been evacuated. But there are regions in the west and south that we are yet to reach," Narsimhan said.
The IAF had dispatched two C-130J Hercules aircraft with 203 NDRF personnel, sniffer dogs, rescue teams, medical personnel and nine tonnes of relief materials including tents, medicines and food stocks from Hindon to Bagdogra within hours of the quake.
An Mi-17 helicopter with medical team and relief equipment also took off from Bagdogra for Gangtok and two Cheetah helicopters from Bagdogra carried out aerial recce missions to assess the damage. One IL-76 with 100 personnel of the No. 2 NDRF battalion and eight tonnes of material flew from Chandigarh to Bagdogra this morning and will make another sortie on Monday night.
In Darjeeling, also badly hit the earthquake, 15 Army columns have been deployed in Kalimpong, Algarah, Rishi, Rorathang and Padamchea while four more have been kept in Darjeeling town.
How do you stop nature?  

A 7 storied tall building in Kalimpong
Biswadeep Ghosh, Pune Times, 19 September 2011: The television brought the news. ‘Sikkim devastated by earthquake’: the one-liner was followed by statistics of death, possibilities of people getting trapped; news of aftershocks, how the quake extended beyond Sikkim to reach places as far as Kolkata, Patna and New Delhi; how, after a lot of grim news had reached us, more grim news was inevitable.
Jolted out of happy complacence, I, sitting in Maharashtra, called up Patna, the city of my birth. Then, I tried Kolkata, where I have some friends and colleagues. Technology having surrendered to nature, I could reach neither. I tried New Delhi, which had experienced some mild shocks: and only a few days after the city had been assaulted by a blast and an earthquake of moderate intensity on the same day. “All of us felt the tremors,” said a friend, “but it wasn’t scary as such.” That was good news, but not everything I sought to know. I wanted to know if my ailing grandmother had been able to endure the shock in Patna; whether my uncle and mother were doing fine; if my friends elsewhere had escaped unhurt. What the television had conveyed was simply not enough.
Nature can tame you. But you cannot tame nature. Like everyone who is mature enough to accept the unpredictability of destiny, I am aware that calamities like earthquakes will come when they wish to. The most we can do is minimise the impact of destruction. But what we cannot do is raise our hands and say: ‘Hey, stop. Come back when we ask you to.’ Nature would not hear us. At its worst, it doesn’t have a heart.
My mind goes back to the days when I, a young boy, was trying to learn how to type by toying with a primitive typewriter. This was in Patna. Suddenly, the table fan in front of me jumped and fell from the stool. Moments later, the typewriter’s keys started rattling. Sensing it was a quake, I ran out of home and onto the street. Several years later, while living in New Delhi, I saw the television jump and, realised, to my horror, that it was a quake. While half-asleep in Mumbai, another city where I spent many years, I remember watching the window shake in front of my eyes. Nothing happened. My good luck.
When I finally managed to get through to a friend in Kolkata yesterday, she said, “I thought my head was spinning. Everything was moving. Then I realised it was a quake.” She shared the experience of her friend who, stuck in his 35th floor flat, waited for the inevitable. My uncle in Patna told me how he felt his chair and bed move, and also that some buildings had been damaged a bit.
No such story compares to what happened in and around the epicentre in Sikkim. Sitting miles away, cushioned in safety for the time being, no visual or article can convey the intensity of pain with its traumatising undertones. Nature can turn us into hapless spectators; if lucky, we live, if not, we do not. Mankind will take several centuries before it manages to develop any response to its fury. As of now, whenever such a tragedy takes place, all we can do is pray.

Here is a message received from a Face Book friend Yuka Kitano.

I recieved this message from my Japanese friend Miss Saori Ogura who lives in Sikkim now , hope everybody read and do whatever feel to do for them :
I just got a call from Panchayet in Dzongu in the north Sikkim, that villages called Sakyong and Pentong are badly affected and food support is emergent.
The villages do not have jeep roads, and now rescue group is working for carrying dead bodies and so on, but food shortage is a big issue.
He asked me to give this information to my friends to get support.
I would be grateful if you could also spread the information to give life to the people in Sakyong and Pentong.
Thank you so much.
I hope all is well with you.Saori

52.5 crore loss in Kalimpong, MPS, MLAs visit affected area 
KalimNews, Kalimpong: A team of seven CPM leaders including MPs Shyamal Chakraborty, Manohar Tirkey, Prabodh Chakrapanda, MLAs Khagendra Murmu, Govind Roy and Paskal Minz Sabhadipati of Siliguri Mahkuma Parishad visited Kalimpong to assess the loss due to the recent earthquake. The team visited Lower Bhalukhop area with CPM leader Tara Sundas and met LN Sherpa SDO, Kalimpong. They insisted the people of affected areas like Lower Bhalukhop be engaged in 100 days employment scheme.Shankar Banerjee, Jail Minister also visited Correctional Home at Kalimpong today.
Meanwhile Dr HB Chhetri, MLA Kalimpong also visited the affected areas of Kalimpong and met with the people of Dante, Bhalukhop sheltered at relief camp of Champamaya Primary School and distributed relief materials. Dr Chhetri admitted that at the time of the tremor he was in Kolkata for an official meeting.
"Absence of Jaswant Singh MP is felt by everyone", said Dr HB Chettri while replying the queries of reporters about his whereabout. He added that in the hour of crisis he should have been here.
" The sub division as assessed by Kalimpong administration has suffered an estimated Rupees 52.5 crore of damage in the wake of the unprecedented earthquake which excludes the loss of PWD department", Dr. Chhetri added. He further said that total report of the Sub Division is handed over to him by the SDO and he will handover it to the Chief Minister."We had seen Bengali Chief Minister but this time we saw Bengal's CM", he remarked on the recent visit of Mamata Banerjee CM to the affected hill areas of Darjeeling and Sikkim. On the relief matters he concluded that " we always need a branch of disaster management and we insisted on that to the Central leaders during our tripartite meeting and also reminded this to the CM".
'Sikkim quake may have been induced by dams across Teesta'
HT, Darjeeling, September 21, 2011: Professor Jeta Sankrityayan, former member State Planning Board, West Bengal and also a member of the landslide expert committee 1998, has opined that the presence of multiple dams on the river Teesta and its tributaries could either induce or accelerate earthquakes.
“In early 1970 a major earthquake in Maharashtra had been triggered by the Koyna dam located on the Sahyadri Hills. Though the role of the dams on the River Teesta in the recent quake is yet to be studied, the earthquake could have been induced or accelerated by the dams (dam induced seismicity )” feels Sankrityayan.
The committee on landslides, which had also studied the tectonic plate movement, had handed over recommendations to the government of West Bengal in 2000. The committee had recommended that no constructions should be allowed on the rivers.
The Central government’s “master vision” identifies the North-Eastern region as “India’s future powerhouse” by building about 168 dams in the region. To do this, the Teesta river in Sikkim is being extensively dammed.
Around 35 hydel power projects have been identified in this region with the Teesta Low Dam (TLD) project being the most prominent. The TLD project, harnesses the Teesta river, which originates in Sikkim and flows through North Bengal, creates a 332 MW capacity split into four stages.
The first two stages for a total of 100 MW are in Sikkim, while stage III of 100 MW and stage four of 132 MW are in West Bengal.
“It is very unfortunate that the Government does not pay heed to recommendations of its own committee for which the public have to suffer. Something more devastating can happen any day. It is time the public woke up and pressurized the Government to act more reasonably. Electricity in lieu of lives is not a very human option” added Sankrityayan.
The Himalayas are a young chain of mountains formed by the Indian tectonic plate colliding with the Eurasian plate.
While the river Teesta flows in a north-south direction, the Himalayan fault lines lie in the east west direction.
“A major fault line is located at Kalijhora (considered the best location to study Himalayan fault lines) and Teesta Low Dam Stage 4 is located at Kalijhora” stated Sankrityayan. 
Explaining dam induced seismicity, Sankrityayan stated that owing to the dams checking the flow of the river, the water becomes heavy and starts going down, usually seeping into crevasse.
“Water being a new element in the faults and crevasses in the mountain, the mountain starts adjusting which causes the seismic movements” stated Sankrityayan. The very flow of Teesta is an indicator of the fault line.
While in Sikkim the Teesta flows is curves (zig zag) after Teesta Bazar in West Bengal it flows in a straight line which suggests that it could be flowing along fault line in West Bengal.
“Very few earthquake movements are in a North-South direction but the 6.8 magnitude quake which hit Sikkim and this region was in a North-South movement. The epicenter was at the base of Mount Kanchenjunga. The mountain moved.”
“It took a mere two seconds for the earthquake to reach North Bengal University near Siliguri in the plains from Gangtok which is very unusual” stated the Professor. The shake intensity recorded was 7 Mercalli in Mangan, 38 km from the epicenter and 7 Mercalli in Siliguri 144 km away from Mangan. Gangtok too recorded a shake intensity of 7 Mercalli “ stated Sankrityayan. 
“A full scale inspection and study should be conducted by geologists and earth scientists into the recent quake and on the dam induced seismicity. It should be an independent probe not influenced by the Government. We should not be accelerating or bringing in such natural events otherwise we will definitely have to pay a dear price” suggested the Professor.
जेल मंत्री कालेबुंगमा
डी के वाइबा, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ २१ सितम्बर् : भुँइचालोले पुराएको क्षतीबारे जानकारी लिन आज राज्यका जेल मंत्री शंकर च्याटर्जी कालेबुङ आइपुगे। बेलुका साडे ५ बजीतिर कालेबुङ आइपुगेका मंत्री च्याटर्जीले कालेबुङको जेल घुमेर भुँइचालोले पुराएको क्षतीबारे जेल प्रशासनसंग भेटेर जानकारी लिए। यस अवधी मंत्रीले आफुले सम्पूर्ण उत्तर बंगालको जेल घुमेर सम्पूर्ण जायजा लिएर् गरएको बताए । मंत्रीको आगमनमा स्थानिय नेता एंव गोजमुमो विधायक डा हर्क बहादुर छेत्रीको पनि उपस्थिती रहेको थियो। मंत्रीले जेलको अवस्थाबारे चिन्ता व्यक्त गर्दै यसको निर्माणको निम्ती पहल गर्ने बताए। अर्कोतिर डा हर्क बहादुर छेत्रीले यो जेल बृटिष्कालीन समयमा निर्माण गरिएको जानकारी दिंदै यस जेलको पुन निर्माण हुन आवश्यक रहेको बताए। यस सन्दर्भमा मन्त्रीले माथिलो तहमा यसबारे कुरा राख्ने बताए ।
जेल मन्त्री कालेबुङ जेलमा
मनोज बोगटी, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 21 सितम्बर। जेलमन्त्री सङ्‌कर चक्रवर्ती सॉंझमा कालेबुङ आइपुगे। उत्तरबङ्गालका शंसोधनागृहहरूको भ्रमण गर्दै तिनी आज कालेबुङ आइपुगेका हुन्‌। तिनीसित कालेबुङका विधायक डा.हर्कबहादुर छेत्रीपनि साथमा थिए। कालेबुङ आइपुग्ने बित्ति कै तिनले कालेबुङ शंसोधनागृहको निरीक्षण गरे। तिनले जनाए अनुसार भुइँचालोले कालेबुङको शंसोधनागृहलाई पनि व्यापक क्षति पारेको छ। क्षति भएका ठाउँहरूको निरीक्षण गरें। पीडब्ल्युडीले यसको मरम्मतीको काम गर्ने छ। भुइँचालोको कारण कालेबुङ आउने मन्त्री उनी नै प्रथम हुन्‌। तिनी केवल शंसोधनागृह मात्र हेर्न आएको बताउँदै कसैले कुनै पनि ठाउँको क्षयक्षतिबारे जानकारी दिए निकायमा राख्ने पनि जनाए। यता मोर्चाको पक्षबाट डा. हर्कबहादुर छेत्रीले बताए अनुसार कालेबुङको शंसोधनागृह वृटिशकालीन हो। यसकारण यसलाई पूननिर्माण गरिएको राम्रो हुनेछ। यस सम्बन्धमा मन्त्रीलाई अवगत गराइएको छ। मन्त्री चक्रवर्तीले यस शंसोधनागृहलाई नयॉं गरी बनाउनुपर्ने सम्बन्धमा सोंचिने बताएका छन्‌।
6.8 रेक्टर स्केलबाट - कालेबुङलाई 52 करोडको क्षति
मनोज बोगटी, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 21 सितम्बर। भुइँचालो गएको ठीक तीनदिनपछि कालेबुङका विधायक डा.हर्कबहादुर छेत्रीले पीडित क्षेत्रको निरीक्षण गरे। भुइँचालो जॉंदा विधायक आफ्नो क्षेत्रमा थिएनन्‌। यता भुइँचालो जॉंदै थियो उता तिनी दिल्ली जॉंदै थिए। सिलगढीमा पुगेर तिनले भुँइचालो गएको अनि धेरै क्षयक्षति भएको त चाल पाए तर तिनी पहाड फर्किएनन्‌। तिनी दिल्ली पुगे अनि कोलकाता टिभीको भुइँचालो र पैह्रोबारे प्यानल डिस्कसन गरे। तीनदिन पछि कालेबुङमा अचानक देखापरेका विधायक डा.छेत्रीले आज पत्रकारहरूलाई तिनको लम्बेतान दिल्ली यात्राबारे यसरी नै बताइरहेका थिए। तिनी कोलकाताबाट फर्किएर पनि सोझै पहाड चडेनन्‌, रम्फूमा मुख्यमन्त्री ममता व्यानर्जीलाई पर्किएर बसे। तिनले उतैबाट पहाडबारे जायजा लिए। तिनले कसरी मुख्यमन्त्रीलाई भेटे अनि उनीसित के के कुरा भए त्यसको पनि लम्बेतान विवरण पत्रकारहरूलाई दिए।
तीनदिनपछि कालेबुङमा अचानक देखापरेका विधायक डा.छेत्रीले बिहानै छोटा भालूखोपको दौडाहा गरे। दौडाहापछि पत्रकारहरूसित बोल्दै तिनले कालेबुङमा पुगनपुग 52 करोडभन्दा धेर क्षयक्षति भएको बताए। यता कालेबुङ महकुमा अधिकारी एलएन शेर्पाले क्षतिबारेका सम्पूर्ण विवरण भोलिसम्ममा तयार भइसक्ने जनाएका छन्‌ भने तिनी अनुसार 52 करोडभन्दा धेर सम्पतिहरूको क्षयक्षति भएको छ। शेर्पाले जनाए अनुसार सम्पूर्ण क्षेत्रको सबै विवरण कार्यालयमा आइपुगेको छैन। पञ्चायतहरूलाई शीघ्र नै विवरण दिन सूचित गरिएको छ। शहरी क्षेत्रभन्दा धेर ग्रामीण क्षेत्र नै चपेटमा परेको पनि महकुमा अधिकारीले जनाएका छन्‌। डा.हर्कबहादुर छेत्रीले एउटा महत्वपूर्ण कुरा के गरेका छन्‌ भने मोर्चाले पहाडमा डिजास्टर म्यानेजमेन्टको स्थायी युनिट हुनुपर्ने कुरा उठान गर्नेछ। यो युनिट स्थापित हुनसकेमा कुनै पनि आपदाको पूर्वसूचना नागरिकहरूलाई दिएर जोखिमबाट बँचाउन सकिनेछ। डा.छेत्रीले जनाए अनुसार पहाडमा जाने पैह्रोलाई डिजास्टरकोरूपमा लिएको छैन।
पैह्रोलाई डिजास्टरकोरूपमा लिनुपर्ने अनि डिजास्टर म्यानेजमेन्टको स्थायी युनिट पहाडमा बसाइनुपर्ने कुरालाई मोर्चाले धेर प्राथमिकता दिनेछ। तिनले महकुमा अधिकारीबाट लिएको जानकारी अनुसार अहिलेसम्म पीडब्ल्युडीको कुनै पनि क्षयक्षतिबारे कुनै पनि सूचना पाइएको छैन। तिनले आज नै 24 नम्बर समष्टीका क्षतिग्रस्त क्षेत्रहरूको निरीक्षण गरेको जनाउँदै 50 वटा ब्ल्याङ्‌केट, 70 वटा कुर्ता, 200 वटा तारपोलिन वितरण गरिएको जनाए। छोटा भालूखोपको पनि दौडाहा भएको अनि त्यहॉं पनि 100 वटा ब्ल्याङ्‌केट वितरण गरिएको तिनले जनाएका छन्‌। विधायकले अहिले क्षेत्रको भ्रमण चलिरहेको बताउँदै आफ्नो पक्षबाट मुख्यमन्त्रीलाई जानकारी दिएको जनाए। तिनले भने, मुख्यमन्त्रीले भुँइचालो आएपछि तत्कालै पीडित क्षेत्रको भ्रमण गरिन्‌। यस अघि बङ्गाली मुख्यमन्त्रीले भेदभावपूर्ण व्यवहार गरेथे, तर तिनी बङ्गालको मुख्यमन्त्री हुन्‌। मुख्यमन्त्रीले आफै दौडाहा गरेकोले ठीक पीडितलाई सहुलियत पुर्‍याउन कोशिश गरिने पनि बताए।
मोर्चाले सासंद बोलाउने - पाहुना सांसद आपतकालमा दिल्ली
मनोज बोगटी, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 21 सितम्बर। चारदिन अघि दार्जीलिङका सासंद जसवन्त सिंह आफ्नो संसदीय क्षेत्रमा त आए तर होटलबाट नै दिल्ली फर्किए। पाहुना जस्तो आएका सांसद जसवन्त सिंह न त मीडियामा आए न त जनतामा छाए। जुन जनताले रेकर्ड भोट दिएर तिनलाई जिताए ती नै जनता जसवन्त सिंहको निम्ति भुसुना बराबर पनि रहेनन्‌। तिनी बिर्सिएको बेला पहाड आउँछन्‌ तर जनताले थाहा पाउँदैनन्‌। महङ्गो होटलमा बसेर केही गोर्खा जनमुक्ति मोर्चाका नेताहरूसित गुप्ति बैठक गरेर फर्कन बाहेक सांसदको काम अरू केही देखिएको छैन। आइलाको समयमा पनि तिनी अबेर गरेर पहाड आएका थिए।
यसपल्ट संसारलाई नै राम्रै गरी थाहा भइसकेको भुइँचालोको आतङ्‌क दार्जीलिङका सांसद जसवन्त सिंहले थाहा पाएका छैनन्‌। तिनको मौनताले कुन कुराको संकेत दिइरहेको छ? भन्ने राजनैतिक विषयलाई परै राखेर दार्जीलिङको सांसद भएको नातामा आपातकालमा तिनको भूमिका के हुनुपर्ने भन्ने कुरा प्रमुख रहेको छ। गोर्खा जनमुक्ति मोर्चाले गोर्खाल्याण्डको कुरा उठाउन जिताएको सांसदले गोर्खाल्याण्ड त ल्याएन नै गोर्खाल्याण्डको साटो मोर्चाले जीटीएमा हस्ताक्षर गरेपछि सांसदले दार्जीलिङलाई लत्याइरहेको सबैले अनुभव गरेका छन्‌। केही दिन तिनी दार्जीलिङ त आए तर तिनले दार्जीलिङबासीको पीडालाई सम्बोधन गरेनन्‌। जनतालाई पत्तो नै नदिएपछि गोर्खा जनमुक्ति मोर्चालाई पनि आपतमा पारेको छ।
सबैले मोर्चालाई नै दोष्याइरहेको बेला भुइँचालोले निम्ताएको आपतबाट सासंद बेखबर बन्नु लाजमर्दो बनेको छ। बङ्गालका मुख्य मन्त्री ममता व्यानर्जी त आए नै मालदाका सांसद मौसम नूर समेतले खरसाङको दौडाहा गरिसकेका छन्‌ तर पहाडका सांसदको कुनै अत्तोपत्तो छैन। दुःख लाग्दो कुरा त के देखिएको छ भने पहाडमा भुँइचालोले जोखिम पारेको कुरा सूचना पनि मोर्चाले दिनु परिरहेको छ। मोर्चाले सासंदलाई दार्जीलिङ बोलाउने भएको छ। आज मात्र कालेबुङमा देखापरेका विधायक डा.हर्कबहादुर छेत्रीले पनि यत्रो भइसक्दा पनि आफ्नो क्षेत्रको सासंद न आउनु दुखदायी रहेको जनाएका छन्‌। तिनले क्षेत्रको निरीक्षण गर्ने दायित्व सांसदको रहेको बताए। तिनले भने, सासंदलाई बोलाइने छ र क्षति भएको ठाउँमा घुमाइने छ।
पीडित क्षेत्र हेर्न आइपुगे वाम टोली
मनोज बोगटी, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 21 सितम्बर। हिजो मात्र मुख्यमन्त्री ममता व्यानर्जी भुँइचालोले पारेको क्षति हेर्न पहाड चडिन्‌। तर सबैभन्दा धेर क्षति पुर्‍याएको कालेबुङ महकुमामा भने आइनन्‌। तिनी नआएपनि आज पहिलोपल्ट दुर्घटनाको तीनदिनपछि कालेबुङका विधायक डा.हर्कहादुर छेत्रीले पीडित क्षेत्रको निरीक्षण गरे भने आज नै सातजनाको वामपन्थी टोली पनि कालेबुङ आइपुगे। टोलीमा सांसद अनि विधायकहरू सामेल थिए। उनीहरूमा राज्यसभा सांसद स्यामल चक्रवर्ती, मनोहर तिक्री, प्रवोध चन्द्रपाण्डा लगायत सिलगढी महकुमा परिषदका सभाधिपति पास्कल मिन्स, विधायक खगेन्द्र मुर्मु अनि गोविन्द रोय रहेका थिए। उनीहरूले कालेबुङ आइपुग्ने बित्तिकै कालेबुङ महकुमा अधिकारी एलएन शेर्पासित बैठक गरे। शेर्पाले उनीहरूलाई भुँइचालोले पारेको असरबारे सम्पूर्ण विवरण दिए।
स्यामल चक्रवर्ती अनुसार दार्जीलिङ जिल्ला खतरामा रहेको जुलोजिकल सर्वे अफ इण्डियाले बताइसकेको छ। यसकारण पहाडलाई जोखिमबाट बँचाउन सरकारीरूपले पहल हुन अनिवार्य छ। कालेबुङ प्रमुख भुँइचालो पीडित क्षेत्र रहेको बताउँदै तिनले पीडित क्षेत्रहरूको जायजा लिएर त्यसको रिपोर्ट केन्द्रमा बुझाउने बताए। तिनले भने, कालेबुङमा धेर जस्तो श्रमिक र कृषकहरू बस्छन्‌। जे जति पनि क्षति हुन्छ उनीहरूकै हुन्छ। यसकारण हाम्रो टोलीले ग्रामीण क्षेत्रमा रहेका पीडितहरूको रिपोर्ट लिनेछ। उनीहरूलाई सरकारद्वारा सहुलियत उपलब्ध गराउन विशेष पहल गरिने छ।
यता महकुमा अधिकारीसित भेटघाट गरेर जानकारी लिए पनि रिपोर्ट चुडान्त नरहेको जनाएका छन्‌। मनोहर तिर्कीले कालेबुङमा पानीको मूल समस्या देखापरेको बताए। पानीको समस्या समाधान गर्न पनि आफूहरूको प्रयास रहने जनाएका छन्‌। उनीहरू कालेबुङ आपुगेपनि शहरको निकटवर्ती क्षेत्रहरुको मात्र दौडाहा गरे। यस सम्बन्धमा माकपा नेता तारा सुन्दासले वामपन्था टोलीले ग्रामीण क्षेत्रलाई नै प्रमुखता दिने जनाएका छन्‌। सुन्दासले भने, कालेबुङमा धेरै बिल्डिङहरू चर्किएको छ। गाउँ नै चर्किएको छ। चर्किएको बिल्डिङ र गाउँमा मानिसहरू बस्न उचित हुन्छ हुँदैन, यसबारे कसैले पनि ध्यान दिएका छैनन्‌। यसको निम्ति विषय विशेषज्ञहरू निम्त्याएर बस्न उचित नहुने ठाउँहरूको घोषणा गरिनुपर्छ। यस सम्बन्धमा पनि वामपन्थी टोलीले काम गर्ने छ।
400 राहत शिविर बसाइयो
मनोज बोगटी, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 21 सितम्बर। कालेबुङ महकुमा अधिकारी एलएन शेर्पाले जनाए अनुसार कालेबुङ महकुमाभरि नै पीडितहरूको निम्ति 400 सय राहत शिविर बसाइएको छ। तर पीडितहरू अनुसार शिविर बसाइए पनि राहत सामाग्रीहरू पूर्णरूपले बहाली हुन सकेको छैन। जानकारी अनुसार कालेबुङमा मोठ 64 वटा गाउँलाई भुइँचालोले क्षति पुर्‍याएको छ। खण्ड 1,2 अनि तीनमा नै धेर असर गरेको जानकारी पाइएको छ। पीडित गाउँका मानिसहरूलाई सुरक्षित ठाउँमा त सारिएको छ तर उनीहरूलाई उपलब्ध गराइनुपर्ने राहत नआइपुगेकोले क्षेत्रक्षेत्रमा नै समस्या उत्पन्न भएको छ। महकुमा कार्यालयबाट राहत सामान पठाउने प्रयास जारी रहेको बताइएको छ। अहिलेसम्म जति पनि क्षयक्षतिको रिपोर्ट महकुमा कार्यालयमा आइपुगेको छ, त्यसबाहेक पनि धेरै नै क्षति महकुमा भरि रहेको छ।
जानकारी पाइए अनुसार कालेबुङमा मोठ 21 हजार 128 जना भुँइचालोबाट पीडित बनेका छन्‌ भने यसमा 1464 घर पूर्णरूपले क्षतिग्रस्त छन्‌। अर्ध क्षतिग्रस्त घरहरूको संख्या अनगन्ती रहेको छ। माकपा नेता तारा सुन्दासले बसाइएको चार सय राहत शिविर भनेको अस्थायी समाधान मात्र हो। राहत शिविरमा उनीहरू कतिदिन बस्न सक्छन्‌? निश्चित छैन। एकातिर दशैं र तिहार पनि नजिक छ। यस्तोमा राहत शिविरमा कोही पनि पीडित धेरै दिन बस्न सक्दैनन्‌। यसकारण अहिलेदेखि नै उनीहरूको पुनर्वास र स्थायी समाधानको निम्ति पहल गरिनुपर्छ।
गोरूबथानका पीडितहरूलाई त्राण शिविरमा सारियो
मनोज बोगटी, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 21 सितम्बर। गोरूबथानका चारवटा गाउँका भुँइचालो पीडितहरूलाई चारवटा त्राण शिविरमा सारिएको छ। भुँइचालोले कोलबोङ, शेर्पा गॉंउ, कालिखोला अनि सुनार गाउँलाई जोखिममा पारेको थियो। यी क्षेत्र व्यापकरूपमा चर्किएकोले गॉंउमा बस्न नसकिने भएपछि उनीहरूलाई त्राण शिविरमा सारिएको हो। उनीहरूलाई कोलबोङ प्राथमिक पाठशाला, शेर्पा गाउँ प्राथमिक पाठशाला, छोटा फागु चियाबारी अनि कालिखोला क्लब घरमा राखिएको छ। जम्मै क्षेत्रमा जम्मा 71 वटा घर पूर्णरूपले क्षतिग्रस्त बनेको छ भने 191 वटा घरलाई आंशिक क्षति पुर्‍याएको छ। मोठ 445 जना पीडितहरूलाई त्राण शिविरमा सारिए पनि त्यहॉं त्राण सामग्री आइपुगेको छैन।
गोर्खा जनमुक्ति मोर्चा केन्द्रिय कमिटी सदस्य चन्द्र योञ्जनले जनाए अनुसार त्राण शिविरमा सारिएका पीडितहरूको निम्ति खाने कुरा छैन। आज दिउँसोसम्म पनि राहत सामाग्री नआएपछि बीडीओसित सम्पर्क गरियो तर बीडीओले यसबारेमा आफूलाई कुनै जानकारी नभएको बताएपछि महकुमा अधिकारीलाई सम्पर्क गरेर राहत सामग्रीबारे सोध खोज गर्दा शेर्पा गॉंउमा दुइबोरा चामल ल्याएको चन्द्र योञ्जनले जनाएका छन्‌। तिनले भने, चामल मात्र पीडितहरूले कसरी खाने? अन्य सामाग्री नआए यहॉंका पीडितहरूलाई नितान्तै असुविधा हुने छ। तिनले भने, आजको दिन भने मोर्चाका विभिन्न शाखाहरूले खाने कुराको बन्दोबस्त गरिदिएको छ। यस सम्बन्धमा खण्ड त्राण अधिकारी टीटी भोटियासित जान्न चहॉंदा तिनले यस सम्बन्धमा अच्च अधिकारीसम्म रिक्विजिशन पठाइएको बताएका छन्‌। तिनले हिजो शेर्पा गॉंउमा एक कुइण्टल अनि 36 सय रुपियॉं, पोख्रेबुंगमा एक कुइण्टल चामल अनि 45 सय रुपियॉं 80 वटा तारपोलिन, 70 वटा कम्बल अनि छोटा फागुमा 150 वटा कम्बल,100 धोती अनि 280 वटा तारपोलिन बितरण गरिएको पनि जनाएका छन्‌।
Standing tall defying all rules Buildings flout norms in seismic zones

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Gangtok, Sept. 21: The earthquake has brought the Gangtok and Darjeeling skylines into focus — hill towns that are located in seismic zones and where, according to experts, flouting of building rules can bring down structures like a pack of cards.
Although government officials insist they are vigilant on this issue, a cursory glance at the two towns, which was once dotted with bungalows, belies all claims.
Buildings eight-storey high have been constructed in these towns where height is restricted to five storeys largely because of the mountainous terrain and also because some areas come under seismic zone IV.
Devika Chhetri, additional chief town planner of Gangtok, said the height restrictions depended on the zones into which the state capital has been classified by the mines and geological department.
“The town has been divided into six zones. While zone I can is the most stable one and can be allowed to have five-and-a-half storeyed buildings, only one-and-a-half storeys are permitted in zone V,” she said. No constructions are allowed in zone 6.
A “half storey” means a small penthouse-like construction or space for godowns on roofs.
Many residents that The Telegraph spoke to in Gangtok alleged that the restrictions were only for the common public. “Influential people always get away just like it happens everywhere,” was a common refrain among the locals.
Chhetri, however, rejected the charges. “The height restriction has been here since 2001 and many of the structures you noticed might have come up before the cut-off date. We are very vigilant and we do not pass plans without a certification from the mines and geological department,” the official, who is from the state urban development and housing department, said.
“We also have construction specification as to how a column needs to be tied. Even though it is not possible to visit each and every site, we cover most of the construction sites to see if these specifications are being adhered to.” She, however, added that there were provisions to allow government buildings and those belonging to certain agencies to exceed the five-and-a-half storey height restrictions. “I will, however, not be able to immediately recollect the conditions on which the restrictions can be waived off,” she added.
The situation is no different in the Darjeeling hills, where the issues of height restriction is mired in controversy.
While the state government has specified that buildings cannot exceed 11.5 metres (close to four storeys) in height, the Darjeeling municipality had during the early 2000 raised the relaxation to 14.5 metres (five storeys). At that time, former CPM MLA from Siliguri Asok Bhattacharya, was the municipal affairs minister.
Despite the height restriction, buildings towering up to eight stories can be seen in Darjeeling.
New constructions continue to come up in violation of this norm, which has been conveniently overlooked by all political parties that have run the hill municipalities.
In fact in 2008, the Darjeeling municipality decided to “legalise” all buildings which had exceeded the height restriction as “politically”, no party could undertake a large-scale demolition drive in Darjeeling. The logic of the municipality at that time was that too many buildings had to be demolished, so it was better to legalise them and penalise those that flouted norms after 2008.
Many buildings owners in Darjeeling who had constructed beyond the stipulated height limit told The Telegraph that they were confident that structures were fine as no cracks had appeared on the walls after the September 18 quake.
Subin Pradhan, an architect from Kalimpong, however, had a warning for these building owners.
“A building cannot be judged earthquake-resistant by how crack-proof its walls are. It has to be collapse-resistant which is ensured by proper design of structural elements. In the hills people have the tendency to construct buildings on stilts and this is dangerous. Stilts tend to have domino effect during tremors.”
By stilts design, Pradhan, was referring to the practice of completing two storeys, followed by pillars, and then again two more floors so that the houses come up to the road level.
Pradhan also said that in the Darjeeling hills too an area-wise restriction, on the lines done in Gangtok, should be followed, instead of a uniform guideline. “This is important as soil structure changes from place to place,” said Pradhan.
Across Darjeeling hills many old structures like Loreto Convent and Dr. Graham’s Homes suffered damage during the quake.
“Many old buildings are repaired by simply plastering the cracks. This is not a good idea. During repair care should be taken to restore structural stability which at times would mean adding a few ironbars or a strong mesh to the walls and ceilings. In old buildings, it is these iron bars that bear the load (instead of the modern buildings which bear loads mostly through columns),” said Pradhan.
Bare-knuckle battle with rocks Race to reach nine villages still cut off

BIJOY GURUNG, TT, Gangtok, Sept. 21: Nine villages with a combined population of 1,000 were out of the reach of the rescue effort in North Sikkim till this evening, injecting a fresh sense of urgency into a task force blasting past and working around boulders blocking roads in the region.
The cut-off villages are located in Dzongu, the protected area of the Lepchas, the indigenous tribal community of Sikkim. The villages have been identified as Shipgyer, Bey, Saffo, Salem, Payel, Sakyong, Pentong, Lingzy and Tholung which fall in the upper Dzongu region opposite Chungthang valley.
Construction workers from elsewhere make up between 40 and 50 per cent of the 1,000-strong population in these villages — a feature that has implications for states such as Bengal from where people go to these sparsely populated regions to work.

One such tragedy emerged today with the announcement that 17 workers of Teesta Urja Ltd, a company implementing a 1,200MW hydel power project in North Sikkim, had died in the quake. A company statement said the workers were killed by falling boulders at different spots, not because of tunnel collapses.
An electrician in his late thirties and from South 24-Parganas in Bengal, Pabitra Manna, was killed when his rented flat collapsed in Chungthang in North Sikkim. He was working for a construction company. So far, six persons from Bengal had died in Sikkim.
The workers were among the 70 casualties reported till this evening in Sikkim alone. Unofficial reports put the Sikkim toll at 73, taking the overall figure within and outside the country to 116.
Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling put the loss from the quake at Rs 1 lakh crore.
Rescue and relief teams are still to reach several villages in North Sikkim, the largest but least populated of the four districts in Sikkim, although telecommunication facilities have somewhat improved in Mangan, the administrative headquarters of the district.
But beyond Mangan, the disruption is total. According to information pieced together from the army, the Border Roads Organisation and the Sikkim government, at least 13 areas in North Sikkim are cut off by multiple landslides.
The first three are Lachen, Lachung and Chungthang town along the North Sikkim highway. Around 200 metres of the highway has been washed away beyond Toong, 14km from Chungthang. However, since the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are present in these locations, relief workers are not too alarmed about these areas.
What they are concerned about are the nine villages in Dzongu. “A number of houses were washed away since the quake. We have sought the help of the army to drop food supplies and medicines. Our officials are reaching these isolated areas on foot to assess the damage. Two hundred members of the NDRF (the National Disaster Response Force) are also spreading out,” said Sikkim government spokesperson K.S. Topgay.
“Sixteen hundred kilos of rice were dropped in these villages by army choppers,” said Lt Gen. Vinod Bhatia, the core commander of 33 Corps. However, since the stretch is wide, it was not clear how many people could access the food.
A team of 1,200 (600 BRO personnel and as many labourers) is carrying out the back-breaking — and often cliff-hanging — work of battling the boulders that had lodged themselves in the middle of the highway between Mangan and Chungthang.
Nine excavators or bulldozers have been deployed to clear away the rubble and small rocks. Dynamite is being ignited and jackhammers are chiselling away to break the huge boulders into smaller pieces so that they can be swept away by the machines.
The BRO is facing a shortage of diesel, which is needed to fuel the machines and power the jackhammers. The organisation is planning to airlift diesel to these locations.
The extraordinary odds have prompted the government to waive formalities. Permission has been given to health workers and police assisting rescue operations to conduct “on-the-spot” post-mortem instead of carrying the bodies to the district hospital at Mangan.
3 nights: in car, school & camp

Rahul Gandhi interacts with Gangtok residents on Wednesday. The Congress MP landed at the Libing military helipad in an air force chopper at 9.55am and headed to the Sikkim Central Referral Hospital to see the injured.He visited the site where a four-and-half-storey building had collapsed and met people affected by the earthquake before leaving at 10.26am. (Reuters)
BIJOY GURUNG AND AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Gangtok/ Bagdogra, Sept. 21: Sudipto Khan, 30, had just checked into a hotel in picturesque Lachung with his family on Sunday evening and his wife Sayanti was fixing a meal for their two-year-old son Shirish when the earthquake struck.
The Khans, who had travelled from Serampore in Hooghly with Sayanti’s parents and brother, spent Sunday night sleepless in a car in the North Sikkim village 124km from Gangtok, Monday night in a school across the Lachung river that they reached after crossing a 25ft high boulder, and Tuesday night in a military camp.
The family were among 68 tourists evacuated to Mangan, the district headquarters, today from the tourist hamlets Lachung and Lachen. Two Norwegian students and two Americans were among those rescued.
The Khans will return to Gangtok, 67km away, by road.
“We had wanted a beautiful trip. We got an adventure,” said Khan, who works for a public sector undertaking in Bangalore. “Thank God we survived the quake and got rescued,” he said, also thanking the army, Lachung residents and tour operator Paljor Lachungpa.
Eighteen sorties were carried out to rescue the tourists – 32 from Lachung, which falls on the way to Yumthang that is famous as the Valley of Flowers, and the rest from nearby Lachen, which is on the way to Gurudongmar lake.
“The army could not fly the tourists out of Lachung yesterday because of bad weather,” Paljor said, adding that all the visitors in Lachung had left today. Four were from Calcutta, Khan said.
Lachung has been without power since the quake and is cut off, with road and phone links snapped.
Sanjay Kumar, a jeweller from Bangalore who was in Lachung with his wife and friends, was all praises for the villagers and the army. “The Lachung people gave us whatever food they had,” said Sanjay, who had got hit by a rock in the leg.
Paljor pointed out that the villagers themselves were facing a food shortage. “The food stock in Lachung will run for five-six days. We have asked the people to control their food intake,” the tour operator said.
Khan recalled how helpless they had felt on Sunday evening. “Suddenly, there was a vibration and a huge sound. We thought the hotel was running a generator but the vibration got stronger and lights went off. It was dark and very difficult to find the door. Finally, we managed to get out. A lot of people were already on the road. We saw some running aimlessly shrieking. We were helpless,” he said over phone from Mangan.
“A monastery was in ruins. We spent a sleepless night in a car,” he said. They had hired the car to take them to Yumthang the next day.
On Monday morning, they spotted an army column. “We met them and told the major about our problems. They took all of us to a school across the river where it was much safer. We had to climb a 25ft high boulder to reach the school. We stayed there on Monday night. The next day, the army took us to a nearby military camp. This morning, we came to Mangan by an army chopper,” Khan said.
All the 32 tourists in Lachung took the same route, with Paljor coordinating.
The soldiers also informed Khan’s relatives in Calcutta they were safe. “There was no phone or mobile network and the only thing working was the army Internet system,” Khan said.
Trek downhill
Four youths from Behrampore made an early exit from Lachen, heading out on Sunday evening.
Kaushik Karmakar, Bijoy Saha, Tabrez Sheikh and Chaitanya Das had reached Lachen at 5.45pm, just 25 minutes before the earthquake.
“We had just come out of our hotel to buy woollens and have tea,” said Kaushik from his bed at the 158 Base Hospital of the Indian Army at Bengdubi near Bagdogra. “The buildings were shaking violently and soon, stones started hurtling downhill. The sound was deafening and the hillsides continued to rain stones for several minutes.”
The cellphone connections snapped and they could not reach their families.
“It was Tez Tamang, our driver-cum-guide, who emerged as our saviour. On his instruction, we took out our luggage from the hotel rooms where cracks had developed and he drove us about 15-20km to a hilltop. We stayed there at night, waiting for daylight to break,” said Bijoy.
On Monday morning, the four started walking downhill. “We walked for quite some time, found a hotel and could send an e-mail to our friends. Then we reached an army camp,” Kaushik said.
Yesterday, a group of army personnel were heading to Chungthang with relief materials. The four youths joined them and walked more than 30km downhill from 8am to 3pm to reach Chungthang. “We could see a waterfall when we were going to Lachen. But while returning, there was no of trace it,” Kaushik said.
“Fortunately, we got an Indian Air Force helicopter which airlifted us out of Chungthang. We were brought to Bagdogra,” he said.
Plateau worry for army

SUJAN DUTTA, TT, New Delhi, Sept. 21: One of the most strategic points on the India-China frontier, a plateau at 16,500 feet with a serene lake within it on the northern tip of Sikkim, is the biggest concern for the army since Sunday’s earthquake because China claims it.
Called simply “Plateau” by the soldiers, the high tableland circled by mountains is 16km at its widest and 23km at its longest. This is the only place on the frontier where the Indian Army has a toehold on the Tibetan Plateau.
Since Sunday, there has been almost no contact with the camps of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the army in Plateau.
From Plateau, India also has possession of a narrow strip some 4km long between two high ranges. This is called “Finger” because that is what it resembles on the map — a curving bit that juts into Chinese territory.
The border is unmarked except by cairns — little heaps of stones. At the southern end of this barren landscape is Gurudongmar Lake, brilliant turquoise in summer and mostly frozen in winter.
The ITBP and the army man two camps in Plateau and from mountain-top posts that rim Plateau, they have a clear view into Tibet allowing them to observe with sophisticated viewing devices any movement from a distance of more than 20km.
The high altitude means that an Mi 17 helicopter can land or take off from Plateau with only one passenger (it can seat 14). The area is the responsibility of the 112 Brigade headquartered in Mangan.
In 2008 and 2009 there were reports that Chinese vehicles and troops had crossed into Finger and were attempting to build a road across it. But the army says that there has been no alteration of the border here in 40 years.
The Indian and Chinese armies follow a set of rules when their patrols come across one another. The soldiers are not even supposed to make eye contact and Indian soldiers have reported locking arms and turning their backs on Chinese troops.
Plateau and Finger are north of Lachen, at least four hours in a four-wheel-drive in fair weather. In the last two years the Indian army has inducted at least a squadron of tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the region — a rare place on the frontier that affords deployment of wheeled and tracked vehicles.
Maintaining the military presence in Plateau and Finger involves acclimatising the troops and keeping reserves of fuel, food and other supplies. The army assesses that the reserves will keep its men going for about a week.
But the temblor has come at a bad time for the military. In end-September and early-October each year, the army concludes its monsoon deployment and goes into an “Operational Alert” before winter sets in. This is the time when the “winter stocking” of forward posts — such as those in Plateau and Finger is carried out.
With the roads blocked by landslides and many villagers who are hired by the army as porters shelterless, winter stocking is on hold. One officer feared that the earthquake in Sikkim may have set the military infrastructure that was built up over three decades behind by about 20 years. Troops may now have to march to their posts, which were supplied by motor vehicles, on foot. This increases the military response time in the event of hostilities.
Centre fails disaster test in calamity zones
NISHIT DHOLABHAI, TT, New Delhi, Sept. 21: The National Disaster Response Force, the special unit created for quick response to calamities, reached areas hit hardest by the quake nearly a day and a half after the tremors cut a swathe of destruction across mountainous North Sikkim.
The shaking mountains that have claimed over a hundred lives so far have also exposed the Centre’s failure to stick to guidelines.
At least some NDRF teams, which function under the Union home ministry, should have long been stationed in Gangtok had the Centre followed the national disaster management guidelines framed in 2007 for tackling earthquakes.
The Sikkim capital falls in seismic zone 5, one of the high seismic activity zones along with zones 3 and 4.
The three zones account for 58.6 per cent of India’s geographical area. Calcutta falls in zone 3, along with Chennai, Lucknow and Mumbai.
The failure to stick to guidelines is all the more glaring since the home ministry has a joint secretary in charge of disaster management.
Soon after the quake struck on Sunday, 10 NDRF teams took off from Delhi and Calcutta, but were stuck in Siliguri as they waited for the army to clear roads or the weather to clear so that they could be airlifted to the affected areas.
NDRF personnel reached Gangtok more than 24 hours later only after army engineers and the Border Roads Organisation cleared debris from landslides at more than 20 places on National Highway 31A, Sikkim’s only link with the rest of the country.
“There is a big gap, I concede,” said Shashidhar Reddy, the vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) that was formed under an act of Parliament after the December 2004 tsunami. He cited weather conditions for the NDRF’s delay in reaching North Sikkim district. “But the army was there,” he added.
On Monday, Union home secretary R.K. Singh had conceded that NDRF teams should have been stationed in the vulnerable zone.
Today, the Centre set up an inter-ministerial team to visit the affected places and give recommendations for assistance from the National Disaster Response Fun.
Home secretary Singh said he would consider deployment of NDRF companies in these quake-prone hills so that the problems the force faced this time were not repeated.
Other places in the high seismic activity zone 5, which covers 10.9 per cent of India’s geographical area, include Agartala, Aizawl, Imphal, Itanagar, Kohima, Port Blair, Shillong, Guwahati and Srinagar. Only Guwahati has an NDRF battalion in place.
NDMA vice-chairman Reddy said that of the two NDRF battalions approved by the government recently, one would be for the Northeast and one for Uttarakhand. Raising of state disaster response forces (SDRF) will be taken up with states soon, he added.
Apart from the two that recently got the nod, the NDRF has eight existing battalions, while two are being raised.

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