Total 40 dead in Sikkim quake; Earthquake measuring 6.8 on Richter scale hits India 200 rescued,Nepal; 18 dead many trapped
A powerful earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude jolted Sikkim and several areas of northeast and neighbouring Nepal on Sunday leaving at least 18 persons dead and over 100 injured besides causing extensive damage to several buildings.
Seven persons were killed in Sikkim - two at Singtham (East), two in Rishi (West) and one in Mangan (North) as the government sought Army's asistance in reaching help to the affected, state Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso told PTI here.
Two army jawans were killed in north Sikkim area and three army vehicles including one with army personnel were reported missing, army officials said in Delhi.
In neighbouring West Bengal four deaths were reported -- three in Darjeeling district and one in Jalpaiguri district, Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh said.
Of the deaths in Darjeeling district, one each occurred in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Siliguri sub-divisions, Ghosh said.
In Bihar, two persons were killed in Nalanda and Darbhanga districts, official sources said.
A five-year-old girl and a youth were the two victims, they said.
At least five people were killed in Nepal, three of them outside the British Embassy in Kathmandu, when a high brick wall collapsed.
Many tall buildings shook and developed cracks in Gangtok and Darjeeling and window panes shattered as thousands of people ran out to the streets in panic.
Two buildings of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) collapsed in Pegong area though there was no immediate report of any casualty, a senior official said.
Communication links snapped
Heavy rains and darkness hampered relief operations in the night.
Tremors were felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi.
Several buildings developed major cracks in the state as personnel of the Disaster Management were deployed, Gyatso said.
Three after shocks of 5.7, 5.3 and 4.6 magnitude on the Richter Scale were felt in the region within 30 minutes of the first quake.
"Tremors were felt between 30 seconds to one minute in some parts of Sikkim, including Gangtok," Shailesh Nayak, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said in Delhi.
The National Disaster Relief Force in on way to Sikkim and would reach Sikkim by tomorrow, Gyatso said.
Gyatso described it as "a massive earthquake. We have alerted the armed forced and the paramilitary personnel."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and offered help in all possible ways, including availability of defence forces.
On the direction of the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth reviewed the situation with Home and Defence Secretaries and senior officials of the National Disaster Management Authority.
Seth said mobile towers had been damaged and the area was in pitch darkness and hence it was difficult to establish communication.
Five IAF planes pressed into action for relief operations.
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force - five each from Delhi and Kolkata - are being sent to assist in the relief and rescue operations, R K Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Disaster Management, in the Home Ministry, said.
R S Basnet, Principal Secretary to Sikkim Chief Minister's Office said Army's assistance has been sought.
A woman was seriously injured in Gangtok near a cinema hall in the market area when stones from an wall fell on her, he said.
Rescue operation underway
Around 200 people have been brought to the ITBP relief camp in Gangtok, Ranjit Sinha, DG ITBP, said. He said some communication was being maintained with the headquarters through wireless.
Army columns in small teams were deployed in rescue mission across Sikkim. The columns comprised medical teams with first aid, engineer detachments and relief and rescue units, an army official said.
The tremor was felt in Delhi and Kolkata as well as Ranchi, Darjeeling. Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Birbhum and Bankura districts in West Bengal.
"Darjeeling and Kalimpong are now in total darkness," West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, adding, "We have alerted all district magistrates throughout the state."
A Patna report said the tremor was felt in various parts of Bihar, including Darbhanga.
Neighbouring Jharkhand also felt the shock, according to a Ranchi report.
In the north, besides the national capital, the tremors were felt in Jaipur and nearby areas of Rajasthan.
Panic gripped people in Lucknow and some other places in Uttar Pradesh where the quake was also felt.
Sonia expresses concern over quake
She urged authorities and disaster management officials to remain vigilant and extend all possible help to the affected people.
Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar also expressed deep concern over the natural calamity.