Saturday, September 24, 2011

Superstitions, rumours add to Sikkim's quake woes

GANGTOK: Natural calamities have always had a share of superstition built around them, and there are many in today's Sikkim, including Buddhist monks, who believe that more quakes are in store and that the ones to come would be even more devastating.

Hundreds of people from township areas like Gangtok are seeking safer havens either down in the plains or in their villages, till such time as the 'evil eye' is on the state.

People are scared and rumours abound. On Thursday, there were rumours of flash floods having swept away 106 people, while on Friday, Sikkim woke up to intense rumours of lava welling up from the depths of Gurudongmar Lake, one of the world's highest fresh water lakes at 17,100 feet in north Sikkim. The scare has scarred public imagination.

Added the fact that meteorological experts confirm no less than 50 earthquakes having rocked the state since September 18 so far, the situation is still tense.

Despite the superb handling of the post-quake scene by the Army and civil authorities, there is a sense of doom among common people who aren't sure at all of what lies ahead.

According to Gopinath Raha, met-in-charge of Sikkim, the saga of quakes did not end last Sunday, when the first earthquake struck. The primary quake measured 6.9 on the Richter scale and this was followed in minutes by two more of about 4-plus intensity. Raha confirmed that till date, more than 50 have taken place, of which about 8 were pretty big, while the rest 42 were mild bordering between 3 and 1 Richter.

Raha said that even last Sunday, the three quakes that were felt, were not the only ones to have taken place. Infact, Sikkim was rocked 18 times that evening and through the night. It was just that the three that got reported, were the only ones that jolted people everywhere.

This was followed by a virtual deluge of quakes. There were 20 last Monday, two on Tuesday, six on Wednesday and four on Thursday. The northern reaches are still under heavy rains. Infact Army sources confirmed that while they were able to rescue 45 people on Friday from Chungthang in choppers, flying further north wasn't possible.

With rescue teams facing difficulties to reach some farflung quakehit areas in Sikkim, hundreds of survivors are trekking out of their cut-off villages, crawling sometimes to negotiate dangerous stretches. Hundreds of villagers from inaccessible higher areas of Lachung, Lachen and Chungthan have gathered at Tung after an arduous trek down and are being taken to safe places.

Meanwhile, in Delhi, the Union power ministry has asked National Hydro Power Corporation to extend all possible assistance to Sikkim, so that normalcy can be restored all over, particularly the earthquake affected areas near NHPC's 510 mw Teesta Hydel power station and 60 mw Rangit Hydel power station.

Minister of State for Power KC Venugopal held this review meeting on Friday to discuss the Sikkim situation. He asked NHPC to act on a war footing and spare men and machinery to clear roads and carry on with other rehabilitation work.

A decision was also taken to avail of the services of seismic experts from IIT Roorkee, to analyse earthquake data and conduct earthquake impact studies at dam sites of NHPC in the region. Apart from this, an expert team of geologists, engineers and senior executives of NHPC from Delhi were also asked to visit the site and submit a report.

The Power Grid Corporation was instructed to expedite restoration of power. North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) was also asked to compile seismic data collected from its power stations in north eastern states for further analysis at IIT Roorkee.

No comments: