New Delhi: A severe earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale rocked Sikkim on Sunday evening resulting in at least 20 deaths and injuries to several others. The epicentre of the quake was Mangan, 64 km from Gangtok in Sikkim, causing major damages in the area. The area of Mangan was said to be the worst hit.
Seven people have been killed in Sikkim and five people are reported dead in Nepal. Two persons were reportedly killed in Nalanda and Darbhanga districts of Bihar, out of which one died in a stampede following the tremors. Four persons were also reported dead in Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Siliguri in West Bengal. Two Army personnel were also killed in the earthquake. Officials say that at least 33 people are reported to have been injured.
Two to three army vehicles including one bus with army personnel was missing. There has been substantial damage to Army buildings in the area around Sikkim.
The casualty figures are expected to rise as reports from the smaller villages and towns of Sikkim pour in.
Army sources confirmed four landslides after a night vision recce. The Centre rushed teams of the national disaster response forces. About 400 personnel and equipment were being flown in to Bagdogra and will proceed on to Gangtok by road.
The earthquake struck on Sunday at 6:10 PM and tremors were felt in many parts of Bihar including the state capital, Patna, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh also. Mild tremors were also felt in Delhi and other parts of North India.
Three aftershocks have been recorded so far, out of which, two were major, measuring 6.1 and 5.3 on the Richter Scale and were felt 20 minutes after the earthquake.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, the DGP of Sikkim said that many buildings were damaged. He also said that roads were blocked and people were stranded on roads. He said that Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has called for an emergency meeting.
Arvind Kumar, Principal Resident Commissioner of Sikkim, said that there was excessive damage in the northern parts of Sikkim. He also said that the rescue operations had started in the area.
There were also reports of landslides following the earthquake in areas around Sikkim and also Darjeeling. Two major landslides have been reported from Sikkim's capital, Gangtok cutting off the National Highway. Several buildings have also been damaged in Gangtok.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also spoke to the Sikkim Chief Minister and offered all help. The Prime Minister also directed Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth to call for an emergency meeting.
There were reports of damages from Bihar and West Bengal too. Two buildings collapsed in Katihar in Bihar. The NTPC power plant in Kahalgaon in Bihar has also been shut down because of the earthquake following which North Bihar was under power crisis.
Mobile connectivity has also been affected in the quake-hit areas.
Severe damage is expected in areas of Nepal adjoining Sikkim. Parts of the wall of the British Embassy in Nepal have collapsed due to the earthquake in Sikkim.
Two Indian Air Force aircraft have been sent from Hindon to Bagdogra while one aircraft has been sent from Palam. One aircraft from Kolkata has left for Bagdogra with personnel of National Disaster Rescue Force along with all equipment. They will be taken from Bagdogra to Gangtok by road which is being facilitated by BSF and West Bengal Government.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police has launched search and rescue operations in Pegong area of north Sikkim which has been "badly affected" with two ITBP buildings also collapsing after the state was rocked by the earthquake. The 9th NDRF battalion based in Bihta, Bihar has been requisitioned for relief work in Sikkim.
The helpline number for West Bengal is 033-22143230.
The Gangtok Police Helpline numbers were +91-3592-202022 and +91-3592-202033.
Map courtesy Google Maps