Monday, August 27, 2007

North Sikkim Bailey bridges swept away

Gangtok, Aug. 26: A flash flood in the Teesta washed away two adjacent Bailey bridges in Zema, North Sikkim, yesterday afternoon, cutting off the frontier outpost from the rest of the state.
Around 400 families from Lachen who practise shifting cultivation live in the highlands during this season and are stuck there, along with the army personnel posted on the border.
The road over the bridges goes up to Thangu and Gurudongmar lake close to the Chinese border.
Lachen is located 4km from where the bridges stood. The river is called Lachen Chu in the region.
The army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have been asked to provide relief to the families, district collector (North) T.N. Kazi told media over phone from Mangan, the district headquarters.
Kazi visited the spot today along with the Pipon (headman) of Lachen.
The cause of the flash flood is yet to be identified. While some spoke of a sudden melting of the Zemu glacier leading to a rise in the water level, others said a landslide triggered the flood.
Kazi said the army has decided to conduct an aerial survey to find the cause.
Soon after the bridges in Zema were washed away yesterday, a high alert was sounded and there was panic at Chungthang, a subdivisional town further downstream. Some livestock had been washed away by the river above Chungthang, though no human casualties have been reported.
Some families living along the river were evacuated.
Though Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has already started repair work, restoration of the road link would take at least a month.
The district administration, along with the army and the BRO, are also scouting for alternative routes to get to Zema.
Last week, a similar flash flood on the Tholung river (Rongyong Chu) swept away four surveyors hired by Himagiri Private Limited, which is developing the 280mw Panan hydel power project in the region.