Three individuals lost their lives, and 23 army personnel were swept away in a tragic flash flood in the Teesta River basin of north Sikkim. The disaster was triggered by a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake and exacerbated by the release of water from a dam. The flood struck around 1:30 am, catching many off guard.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has rescued seven persons from Singtam town where a cloudburst caused a flood-like situation. NDRF's one team is deployed at Gangtok and two teams at adjoining areas of Sikkim in West Bengal.
Rescue and relief efforts have led to the recovery of three bodies in Singtam, as reported by a Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority official. The catastrophe caused significant damage to establishments in various districts, including Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong, and Namchi.
As a safety measure, all schools in the affected districts will remain closed until October 8, according to the education department's circular. Defense officials have reported that establishments along the Lachen valley have been impacted, and efforts are underway to confirm further details.
23 Army personnel missing in Lachen valley
A flash flood hit the Teesta River in the Lachen valley of North Sikkim due to a cloud burst over Lhonak Lake. This catastrophe has also impacted several army installations in the region, with ongoing efforts to ascertain the full extent of the damage. The release of water from the Chungthang dam resulted in a rapid surge in water levels downstream, reaching heights of 15-20 feet. Consequently, Army vehicles stationed near Singtam, particularly at Bardang, have borne the brunt of this deluge.
As a consequence, 23 military personnel have been reported missing, with some vehicles believed to be submerged beneath the slush. Intensive search and rescue operations are currently in progress to locate and aid the missing individuals and assess the overall situation.
"Due to sudden cloud burst over Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim, a flash flood occurred in the Teesta River... 23 personnel have been reported missing and some vehicles are reported submerged under the slush," the army said in a statement.
Army vehicles swept away
The army vehicles parked near Singtam at Bardang were swept away by the raging floodwaters, resulting in the disappearance of military personnel. Search and rescue operations are in full swing to locate the missing individuals, while the severity of the situation continues to unfold.
Army installations and personnel impacted
The flash flood's impact extends to several Army establishments situated along the vulnerable Lachen valley. Authorities are actively engaged in assessing the comprehensive damage incurred in this disaster.
Further compounding the crisis, the Singtham footbridge spanning the Teesta River has collapsed under the pressure of the surging waters. In response, the Jalpaiguri administration in West Bengal has initiated the evacuation of residents from the river's lower catchment areas as a precautionary measure.
Sikkim government issues high alert
Recognising the gravity of the situation, the Sikkim government has issued a high alert across the state, urging residents to steer clear of the Teesta River and its vicinity as the region grapples with this natural calamity.