GANGTOK – 14 people died and 123 people, including 23 army personnel, went missing after a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in Sikkim caused flash floods in the Teesta river. Officials said three people were swept away in North Bengal.
Officials said the situation worsened due to the release of water from the Chungthang Dam. The flood occurred late on Tuesday night at around 1.30 am. Gangtok SDM Mahendra Chhetri said, ‘5 bodies have been recovered from Golitar and Singtam areas.’
An official said, ‘A steel bridge at Singtam, 30 km from state capital Gangtok, was completely washed away in the waters of Teesta river in the early hours of Wednesday. This bridge is also known as Indreni Bridge.
The Sikkim government has declared it a disaster in a notification. Defense spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mahendra Rawat said that due to the release of water from Chungthang Dam, the water level in the lake suddenly increased by 15 to 20 feet.
He said that 23 army personnel are reported missing and 41 vehicles are stuck in the mud. The spokesperson said that due to communication breakdown, the missing personnel have not been identified yet.
Rajeev Bhattacharya, a tourist from Kolkata who had set out for trekking from Gangtok towards Singtam, said, ‘We saw a huge wave of water coming at high speed into the valley… Luckily, I and my friends were at a higher place due to which there was a sudden downpour. Were not affected by the floods. Now we are going back to Gangtok.
Due to the rising river, many towns including Dikchu, Singtam and Rangpo located in the Teesta river valley region have also been flooded. The education department said in a circular that all schools located in Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong and Namchi districts will remain closed till October 8.
Officials said parts of National Highway 10, the main link between Sikkim and the rest of the country, were washed away. Also, a flood warning has been issued for North Bengal and Bangladesh, where the Teesta flows.