Airlift operations commence in Sikkim to rescue stranded tourists after flash floods

Airborne rescue operations were initiated in Sikkim on Monday morning, five days after flash floods wreaked havoc, marking a significant step towards evacuating individuals marooned in remote regions like Lachen and Lachung in North Sikkim. Reports suggest the TriShakti Corps of the Indian Army continued its dedicated efforts to provide crucial assistance to approximately 1700 stranded tourists, which includes 63 foreign nationals, spread across the remote areas of Lachen, Lachung, Thangu, and Chungthang in North Sikkim.

On Sunday, as reported by ANI via a tweet, a remarkable rescue operation unfolded in Chungthang, North Sikkim. The ITBP rescue team successfully executed a daring ropeway rescue, saving a total of 56 civilians, comprising 52 males and 4 females. As weather conditions began to improve in Sikkim state, helicopters were deployed to the severely affected Mangan district to assist approximately 3,000 stranded tourists.

Additionally, reports indicate that around 10 tourists, including five Thai nationals, managed to find their way to safety with the aid of rescuers. Police have announced their intention to continue helicopter operations as long as weather conditions permit.

The devastating flood has caused extensive damage in northern Sikkim, including the destruction of multiple bridges, disruption of pipelines, and substantial harm to hundreds of houses. Regarding the 23 Indian soldiers initially reported as missing, officials have confirmed the rescue of one soldier, while nine others have tragically lost their lives. The search efforts for the remaining soldiers are ongoing.

The precise cause of this deadly flood, which commenced early on Wednesday, remains unclear. It is the latest in a series of floods to impact northeast India during a year marked by unusually heavy monsoon rains. Experts have suggested that potential contributing factors could include the combination of intense rainfall and a 6.2-magnitude earthquake that struck neighboring Nepal on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has declared immediate government aid and support and the establishment of a transportation route on Monday, following his inspection of the disaster-stricken regions around Naga and Sankalan within the Lachen-Mangan and Dzongu Constituency of North Sikkim on Friday.

Tamang has underscored the utmost priority of restoring road connectivity to North Sikkim, an area severely impacted by the floods. He has stressed the urgency of creating a transportation route to guarantee the delivery of essential supplies to the affected areas and has appealed to the public for cooperation in this endeavor.

According to the latest estimates from the Sikkim government, more than 30,000 people have been affected, and approximately 50 villages and towns have suffered in the district alone.  An official reported, “While a relief and rescue team, including NDRF personnel, reached Chungthang for the first time on Friday night, ITBP personnel executed a daring zip-line rescue operation, saving 56 people on Saturday.”

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