Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Air force helicopters break in clouds to reach quake epicentre

GANGTOK: Air force helicopters flew rescue workers to the remote Himalayan region of Sikkim's Mangan on Tuesday in search of survivors of the powerful earthquake that killed more than 70 people in India, Nepal and Tibet.
Most of the casualties were near the epicentre of Sunday's 6.9 magnitude quake in the sparsely populated Sikkim, popular with tourists for its Buddhist monasteries and spectacular trekking.
So far more than 40 have died in Sikkim and there is shortage of space to admit patients in hospitals, an official at the state's health ministry said.
Landslides, rain and fog hampered relief efforts for the second day, with many of the region's high mountain passes being blocked. But Army helicopters took advantage of a break in the clouds to fly a small group of rescuers into Mangan, a small town ringed by snow-capped mountains near the epicentre.

The quake killed at least seven people in Nepal and seven more in Tibet. At least 15 died in West Bengal and Bihar. With soil waterlogged after days of rain, fresh landslides blocked the main access to the state overnight, leaving the bulk of hundreds of rescue workers deployed from New Delhi unable to reach the worst-hit areas.

Sikkim, known for the world's third highest peak in its border with Nepal Kangchenjunga, has 600,000 residents. It borders Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal.

The state's economy boomed in recent years as it opened up to tourism and trade with China. Residents say landslides are a threat to hastily built new buildings in its mountain towns

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