About 23 Army personnel were reported missing and 41 Army vehicles buried in the slush after heavy rains and a flash flood occurred in the Teesta River in Lachen valley following a sudden cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in north Sikkim, an Army statement released from Kolkata said. It said that some Army establishments along the Lachen valley had been affected and efforts were on to confirm details.
The cloudburst and the release of water from the Chungthang dam which is now reported to have sustained heavy damage, led to a sudden increase in the water level up to 15-20 feet downstream. Reports later said that the Chungthang dam had been breached due to the pressure of the water.
This has led to Army vehicles parked at Bardang near Singtam getting affected The Army statement said 23 personnel were reported missing and 41 vehicles were reported submerged under the slush. Search operations are underway, it added.
As the water rushed down the Teesta, flash floods hit Kalimpong district in West Bengal and washed away houses and large portions of National Highway 10 which is the lifeline between Sikkim and North Bengal. Local administration is fearing loss of civilian lives as well.
The railway bridge over the Teesta near Sevoke Bazar is feared to be damaged and one of the pillars is under threat of collapse, local reports said.
As heavy rain battered the region, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said arrangements have been made to evacuate people from Kalimpong, Darjeeling, and Jalpaiguri to safer places. A red alert has been sounded in North Bengal for the next five days. “All steps have been taken to evacuate people in the districts of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri to safer places. Senior ministers of the state and senior IAS officers have been rushed to North Bengal to oversee rescue and relief operations. Close vigil is being kept to ensure no loss of life in this grave calamity,” she posted on X.
Various areas in Kalimpong, including Teesta Bazar and Rampu, have been hit by heavy rain resulting in floods. National Highway 10, which links Siliguri with Gangtok, was closed near Kalimpong after the surging Teesta washed away the highway. A red alert has been issued in areas near the banks of the Teesta, including Gajoldoba, due to a rise in the water levels.
According to the India Meteorological Department, parts of sub-Himalayan West Bengal (north Bengal) received very heavy rain over the past 24 hours. “Pedong received 19 cm rain, Kalimpong 13 cm, Darjeeling 12 cm, Lava 11 cm, and Jhallong 10 cm from 8.30 am on Tuesday to 8.30 am Wednesday,” the IMD said. Gangetic West Bengal received “exceptionally heavy rainfall” during the same period. “Barisha received 52 cm of rain while Amgachia 44 cm, Sabang 44 cm, Panskura 24 cm, Haldia 13 cm, and Itamogra received 13 cm of heavy rain,” the weather department said.
In a press statement, IMD said that a low-pressure area lies over the western parts of Gangetic West Bengal and adjoining Jharkhand. “It is very likely to move slowly northeastwards during next 2 days across West Bengal,” the statement read. The IMD further forecast isolated extremely heavy rainfall over West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya over the next 2 days and exceptionally heavy rainfall over sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on 5 October (Thursday). Parts of Bihar and Jharkhand are also expected to get isolated, very heavy rainfall over the next 24 hours. According to the IMD’s forecast, widespread rain is likely to continue over the next seven days in Bengal.