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Landslides hamper rescue efforts after earthquake

Quake toll could rise as rescue teams have not been able to reach remote areas.

Written by Agencies | Guwahati |
September 19, 2011 9:48:24 am

Rain and landslides were blocking rescue efforts of hundreds of workers searching for survivors of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that jolted a remote the north and northeastern India,killing at least 40 people.

Over 5,000 troops and nine helicopters have been dispatched by the army to carry out rescue and relief operations in quake-hit Sikkim,officials said today.

“Around 5,000 troops in 105 columns and four ALH Dhruv and five Cheetah helicopters have been deployed in the relief operations by the army in the state,” army officials said here.

The troops include elements from both the infantry and engineers,who are involved in deploying heavy equipment and clearing road blocks at several places in the state,they said.

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Officials said that two jawans were killed in north Sikkim in the quake while the three missing vehicles last night have been located and all the troops in them are safe.

They said that army formations in the state have been engaged in providing food and shelter to people in affected areas. At least 2,000 people have been provided help by the army,they said.

The earthquake,which measured 6.8 on the Richter Scale,has also caused substantial damage to certain military buildings in the area.

The IAF,on its part,has already deployed five aircraft – two C-130Js,two AN-32s and one Avro – for relief operations.

Rescue teams,doctors yet to reach affected areas

Around 400 personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and a team of 20 doctors,sent to Sikkim for rescue and relief operations,have not been able to yet reach the quake-hit areas due to blockade of roads following landslides,officials said today.

Five teams of NDRF consisting of 203 personnel along with necessary rescue equipment,who have been dispatched from Delhi,reached Bagdogra in West Bengal this morning,they

said.

“They are still held up at the transit camp in Bagdogra due to landslides which have blocked roads at various places along the highway,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said.

Another five teams of NDRF consisting of 200 personnel have left Kolkata. Of them,100 personnel have arrived at Bagdogra while another 100 personnel were expected to land there shortly.

Officials said over 700 personnel of Indo-Tibetan Border Police were already engaged in rescue and relief operations in Sikkim.

A medical team comprising four surgeons,seven orthopaedics,five anaesthetists,two neuro-surgeons and two other specialists which has been sent for Sikkim from Delhi reached Bagdogra this morning.

They too have not been able to reach the affected areas and are held up at Bagdogra due to landslide causing road blockage,officials said.

Darjeeling cut off,panic in N Bengal

The West Bengal government has asked the Army to assist civil authorities,if needed,in relief and rescue work in Darjeeling and some other North Bengal districts affected by the massive quake that hit the region on Sunday evening.

Darjeeling remained cut off from the rest of the country as landslides blocked major roads and power lines snapped.

“I have talked to the army authorities here and requested them to provide help if necessary,” Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh said.

The death toll in the state has risen to five with reports

reaching Kolkata saying that two deaths have occurred in

Kalimpong area in Darjeeling while one person each was killed

in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri areas and one in a tea garden in

Doors.

“The epicentre of the quake is on the Sikkim-Nepal border and the intensity of the quake is 6.8 on the Richter scale,” said G C Debnath,director of Alipore Meterological Centre. He said aftershocks were felt in North Bengal at 6.11 pm.

Debnath said because of inclement weather and the quake,there could be landslides at some places in North Bengal.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged people not to panic. “I have spoken to Chief Minister of Sikkim. I hope the situation will not be as bad in North Bengal,” she said.

The Chief Minister said assessment of the damage in North Bengal,particularly in the hills,was not possible before morning.

Banerjee said there have been damage in Darjeeling Hills “but hopefully not on the scale that has happened in Sikkim”.

She said efforts were on to restore power supply in the hill areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong.

“The Darjeeling district magistrate has already been asked to assess whether there has been any damage to any building or household in the hills,” Banerjee said,adding that necessary assistance will be provided in case of any damage.

“District Magistrates,SPs,city police commissioner and disaster management and power departments have been asked to remain alert. I am also monitoring the entire situation,” Banerjee said.

The chief minister also cautioned people to remain alert against the activities of anti-social elements. “Anti-socials always take advantage of difficult situation and exploit people. Keep your eyes open,” she said.

State Commerce and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee has left for Jalpaiguri. According to the Chief Minister,he and Gautam Deb,Minister for North Bengal Development,will jointly assess the situation.

In Jalpaiguri,fire broke out a power station,which,the Chief Minister said,was brought under control.

In Kolkata and adjoining areas,there was panic across the city and people came out of highrises. There was not much damage except for cracks at a few places like the police housing colony at Ultadanga.

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