Friday, November 24, 2023

Photographic record of the impact of 04Oct2023 GLOF between Sangkalang and Toong ( North Sikkim) -18Nov2023.

The main road (NH310A) from Mangan to Chungthang (29kms) is blocked near Naga and the bridge at Toong has been swept away, as such now the only road to Chungthang is as shown in RED below which is 40kms long and takes double the time (ie 2hrs).
We made this trip in the early hours of 18Nov2023, leaving Dzongu at 4.30am so that we could spend the whole day covering Chungthang and its vicinity (that will be covered in the subsequent blog).
This blog only records the GLOF disaster at Naga, Ritchu and Toong villages in the Teesta valley, in Mangan, North Sikkim and on NH310A.

The alternate route to Chungthang
Prior to starting a steep climb, one encounters this bridge (27 31 33.5 N 88 31 40.6) Elev 483m/1564', over the pristine and beautiful Kanaka river. See Praveen's drone image below.
Thereafter, the road snakes up in a series of 45 bends at the bottom of the hill and climbs to an altitude of almost 7000'. At places the road is very narrow, hewn out of bare rock with the road edge perilously accident here would mean a fall into a gorge several thousand feet deep and sure death.
This is definitely not a road suitable for heavy vehicles and traffic, being steep, narrow at places and even dangerous.
The army does not allow their vehicles to ply on this route.
After driving on this route for an hour plus we came across areas in the Teesta valley and opposite hill which showed the scars of the GLOF and dam burst on 04Oct2023.

Destruction in Ritchu and Naga village
(27.548536N 88.643017E)
, Mangan district.

Drone images by Praveen of affected areas around Naga village (Mangan district), North Sikkim are given below:
Telephoto images of the same area are below
These photos were taken from (27 32 58.9 N 88 37 48.3 E). There was a lot of haze in the atmosphere hence the discoloration in the photos.
As per Phurkit Lepcha of Shipgyer (village enroute to Chungthang), whom we interviewed - these landslides in the village of Ritchu or Bong (in Toong-Naga GP, Mangan district) did not take place during the GLOF (04Oct) but took place gradually on the 05Oct2023 and thereafter. She expressed apprehension about the survival of these areas in the next year.
I spoke to Dusung Lepcha (31yrs), at Toong village a little later who said that almost the whole village of Ritchu was severely damaged and the destruction at Naga was also immense.

GLOF impact at Toong village (27 33 3.3 N 88 38 38.8 E), 1351m.
We decided to cover the damage at Toong village while on our way upto to Chungthang since it was still  early in the morning.
The road to Toong, itself is badly damaged with a major landslide and several large cracks on the road.
We arrived at Toong after crossing the large Theeng tunnel on NH310A.
Toong lies in the Teesta valley on NH310A or the highway connecting Mangan to Chungthang.
As per locals, the GLOF hit Toong at around 12.30am on 04Oct2023 and took down the bridge at that time. They said villages further downstream ie Ritchu and Naga had also been badly damaged but the only way to get there was crossing the river on a small bamboo bridge on foot.
Sikkim Police had a check post here which was abandoned and lay hanging near the river's edge.
Sikkim Police check post, destroyed by the GLOF on 04Oct2023 lies deserted at Toong.
Drone image (by Praveen) of the destroyed bridge across the Teesta at Toong.  This bridge on NH310A which is more suitable for heavy traffic, connected Mangan (North Sikkim district HQ.) to Chungthang and other areas in North Sikkim.
A local person I spoke to here said that they had lost a lot here and was also not sure of the plight of hundreds of workers who were working on a defense road across the bridge.
Again, there is a frantic effort to rebuild this bridge and to repair the damaged areas of NH310A before the monsoons since the other roadway is definitely not suitable.
Close - up of the destroyed bridge across the Teesta at Toong. The bridge was taken down by the GLOF and dam burst on 04Oct2023. Now one has to cross the Teesta on the tiny bamboo bridge to reach villages across the river.

My thanks to all those we spoke to and all those who helped.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling -Sikkim Himalaya
Praveen Chhetri
Junkeri Studio

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