Gangtok/New Delhi: By
Monday at least 42 people had perished across north and east India
in the powerful earthquake that originated at its border with
Nepal even as rescue and relief operations were hampered by
landslides and bad weather, fuelling fears of a rise in
In Sikkim, where the epicentre of Sunday's 6.8 magnitude temblor
lay and which was the worst hit, 35 people were killed. Over 200
were injured, 25 bridges developed cracks and scores of buildings
Besides, five people died in West Bengal and two in Bihar, said
Home Secretary R.K. Singh.
"The possibility of the toll going up is there," he told reporters
in New Delhi.
Sikkim passed through one of its darkest hours, with landslides
snapping its only road link with the rest of the world and
preventing disaster response teams from reaching affected sites -
a problem compounded by incessant rain.
The road from Bagdogra to the Sikkim capital Gangtok could be
restored only by late afternoon.
"The road is open. Power has been restored in Gangtok," the home
But it's a long way to recovery.
"It's death and destruction in Sikkim now with people still in a
state of shock. Most houses in Gangtok have suffered wide cracks,
even gaping cracks seen on the main roads," said Arun Gurung, a
businessman in Gangtok.
About 6,200 personnel from the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border
Police (ITBP) did manage to fan out to victims. More than 400
people, including 26 tourists, were rescued by security personnel,
despite rough weather and bad terrain.
The quake has not only affected a wide swathe of India but
neighbouring areas like Nepal and Tibet reported casualties too.
While nine have died in Nepal, the figure is seven in Tibet.
Sikkim was cut off from the rest of the country, with the national
highway 31-A blocked in at least eight places, for much of the
day. Ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF),
including rescue and medical officers, and a team of doctors
waited for hours to reach quake-affected areas.
"I saw at least six vehicles damaged, hit by landslides with
boulders smashing the vehicles on the highway," said Ravi Lepcha,
a teacher in Gangtok.
The Himalayan state feared that the death toll would spiral.
C.B. Karki, Sikkim information minister, told IANS: "The casualty
figure might go up as we are still getting reports of deaths and
injuries from remote areas. Telecommunication facilities are down
and hence information is hard to come by from the interior areas."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sanctioned Rs.2 lakh each for
the next of kin of those killed in India.