The death toll from the recent flash floods in Sikkim reached 21 on Friday, with Army and NDRF teams tirelessly working for the third consecutive day to navigate through muddy terrain and swift currents in the Teesta river basin, as reported by officials. A total of 102 individuals, including 22 Army personnel, remain unaccounted for since the early hours of Wednesday when the floods struck, impacting an estimated population of more than 20,000 people.
Additionally, the Sikkim government has issued another alert for a potential glacial lake burst, urging tourists to postpone their travel plans due to the risk of explosives and ammunition being carried away by the flash floods from an army camp. The Shako Cho lake near Lachen is under threat of bursting, prompting authorities to commence evacuations of residents in the vicinity.
As of Friday, over 3,000 tourists find themselves stranded, with 2,500 individuals already evacuated and 6,000 relocated to relief camps.
The flash floods were triggered by a glacial lake burst in the upper reaches of Sikkim, resulting in a glacial lake outburst and the release of water from the Chungthang Dam. This event substantially elevated the water level of the Teesta River, causing widespread destruction in the Himalayan state. Approximately 3,000 individuals are stranded in Lachen and Lachung, with an additional 3,150 motorcycle riders also trapped due to the flooding.
Financial aid of ₹44.80 Cr allocated to address crisis
The Indian Army has released an official statement acknowledging that due to the extensive flooding in Sikkim, various military equipment, including firearms and explosives, were swept away by the Teesta River. The statement strongly advised the public against attempting to handle these items and instead urged them to promptly report any sightings of firearms or explosives to the nearest police station. This cautionary alert follows a tragic incident in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, where two individuals lost their lives, and six others sustained injuries while attempting to approach a mortar found floating in the river. It is believed that this mortar had been carried downstream by the flash floods originating in Sikkim.
As of Wednesday, the Sikkim government has asked for three extra platoons of the National Disaster Response Force, which the Centre has approved. Sikkim Chief Secretary Vijay Bhushan Pathak stated, “We will evacuate all of them with the help of Army and Air Force helicopters.”
On Friday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has approved the release of both installments of the Central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to Sikkim, amounting to ₹44.80 crore in advance for the year 2023-24, to support the state in its relief efforts for those affected by the flash floods.