Gangtok, June 1: Around 800 tourists returned here safely today, a night after they were stranded by multiple landslides on North Sikkim Highway and Jawaharlal Nehru Marg.
Heavy rainfall in North Sikkim had triggered at a dozen slides around 8pm yesterday between Kabi and Phengla. Around 100 vehicles bringing tourists to Gangtok from Lachung and Lachen were trapped in the slides.
Similarly, three vehicles ferrying 29 tourists from Chhangu Lake in East Sikkim were also stranded when a stretch of Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, which is being widened, caved in near 13th Mile. Two slides blocked the road at 17th Mile.
A team of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim led by its president Paljor Lachungpa attempted to reach the tourists but could not do much. “We reached Phengla last night but the evacuation was difficult because of darkness and falling stones,” said Lachungpa.
In a joint operation by the government, tour operators and local people, the stranded tourists were provided with snacks, tea and medicines at night and in the morning before they were brought back to Gangtok.
The visitors appreciated the efforts of the stakeholders of Sikkim Tourism. “It was a unique experience as they (stakeholders) were there to help us. Some of us slept in the vehicle while others were provided with accommodations at local huts or in army barracks,” said Partha Ghosh, a tourist from Calcutta returning from North Sikkim.
Director of the Border Roads Organisation’s Project Swastik (works) that maintains both the highways C.P. Sharma said traffic on North Sikkim Highway would be restored by the next three-four days while the Gangtok-Nathu-la road would be repaired by this evening or by tomorrow at the latest.
Water supply hit
Yesterday’s heavy rainfall also disrupted water supply to Gangtok from the Rathey Chu water source. Three six-inch and one 14-inch pipes were damaged between Rathey Chu and the water treatment plant at Selep tank, officials said.
Comment by Praful Rao
The state of Sikkim and Darjeeling district both lie in the most landslide prone parts of the country (see here ). What is worrying about above news is that the monsoons haven't even reached us and these landslides are the result of premonsoon showers.
With the arrival of the monsoons, a little later this month we will still have 4 months of rain ahead of us.