A severe earthquake rocked Sikkim on Sunday evening resulting in at least 20 deaths and injuries to several others. The earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale which hit the east and Northeast region, was the biggest in 20 years. The epicentre of the quake was 64 km from Gangtok in Sikkim, causing major damages in the area. Aftershocks measuring 6.1 and 5.3 on the Richter Scale were also felt around Sikkim 20 minutes after the earthquake. This is the fourth earthquake in India in this current month of September 2011. Three earlier earthquakes hit Manipur, Haryana and Gujarat in September 2011.
There were also reports of landslides following the earthquake in areas around Sikkim and also Darjeeling. It was raining heavily since yesterday and this has made the situation worse. Two major landslides have been reported from Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok cutting off the National Highway. Several buildings have also been damaged in Gangtok. Mobile connectivity and power supply have also been affected in the quake-hit areas.
I was very much tense and worried for Jaya and Babai. They were traveling to Gangtok. As I sat with lunch after returning from office at around 4.00 pm Baghdad time, I opened the TV and saw the breaking news. I forgot my lunch and started calling both Jaya and Babai. The line was busy and no call could be established. I sent sms and it was delivered! But, still there was no response. In the evening I felt relaxed when I received a short call from Jaya and Babai that they are safe in a hotel in Siliguri. The quake caused the network and power black-outs. The same was also being reported in the TV but I was tense as I was not getting any info.
They were on the way up the mountain. Suddenly they felt shock and the driver thought that it was a case of tyre burst. He got down to check. The tyres were ok. People there told them that was an earthquake. The driver parked the car on the side as it’s not advisable to drive during earthquake. There was a long queue of traffic due to the tremor. There were reports of massive landslides on the way to Gangtok. It was getting dark. They were very fortunate that they were not caught between two landslides otherwise they would have no option other than to spend the night in the car until the road is partly cleared. They decided to turn back and reached Sliguri and checked in a hotel waiting for the road to be cleared. It would probably take 2 days to clear the stones and debris on the road.
Thank God that Jaya and Babai are safe. Let us pray that people of Sikkim are safe. It’s truly the gorgeous part of India.