06 October 2023

Flash floods kill at least 31 in northeastern India and leave nearly 100 missing

06 October 2023

At least 31 people have been killed and thousands forced to leave their homes after ice-cold floodwaters swept through mountain towns in India’s Himalayan northeast, officials said.

The flood began on Wednesday when the waters of a glacial lake breached a hydroelectric dam, cascading through towns in the Lachen Valley.

It is the latest deadly flood to hit northeast India in a year of unusually heavy monsoon rains.

Nearly 50 people died in flash floods and landslides in August in nearby Himachal Pradesh state, while record rains in July killed more than 100 people over two weeks in northern India.

Rescue workers were searching for nearly 100 people, including 22 soldiers, on Thursday, according to the Sikkim state government.

More than 2,000 people were rescued after Wednesday’s floods, the Sikkim state disaster management authority said in a statement, adding that state authorities set up 26 relief camps for more than 22,000 people impacted by the floods.

Twenty-six people have suffered injuries and were undergoing treatment at various hospitals across Sikkim, said Vinay Bhushan Pathak, the top state bureaucrat.

One soldier who had been reported missing on Wednesday was later rescued by authorities, the army said in a statement.

The Press Trust of India news agency cited a statement by neighbouring West Bengal state as saying that the bodies of four soldiers were found. However, it was not immediately clear whether they were among the 22 missing soldiers, or had died separately.

Some army camps and vehicles were submerged under mud following the floods, the army said.

Mr Pathak said that nearly 3,000 tourists and 700 drivers with their vehicles have been stranded in the flood-hit areas.

“We are evacuating them through helicopters provided by the army and the air force,” he said.

The army is extending medical aid and phone connectivity to civilians and tourists stranded in the areas of Chungthang, Lachung and Lachen in north Sikkim, the army statement said.

Eleven bridges were washed away by the floodwaters, which also hit pipelines and damaged or destroyed more than 270 houses in four districts, officials said.

The flooding occurred along the Teesta River in the Lachen Valley in Sikkim state and was worsened when parts of a dam were washed away.

Several towns, including Dikchu and Rangpo in the Teesta basin, were flooded, and schools in four districts were ordered shut until Sunday, the state’s education department said.

Parts of a highway that links Sikkim, the state capital, with the rest of the country were washed away.

Prime minister Narendra Modi’s office said in a statement that the government would support state authorities in the aftermath of the flooding.

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