Central Urgent Call for Support: Flash Flood Tragedy in Teesta River Basin

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Five people have died, and 43 individuals, including 23 Army personnel, are missing as of Wednesday evening following a flash flood in the Teesta River basin, according to officials.

The local administration and the Army have launched a massive search to locate the missing individuals.

The flash flood, which began around 1:30 am, was exacerbated by the release of water from the Chungthang dam. “Five bodies have been recovered from the Golitar and Singtam regions, while three persons were rescued from Golitar. Twenty-three Army personnel have been reported missing, and 41 vehicles submerged under the slush,” said Gangtok Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Mahendra Chettri.

Several towns, including Dikchu, Singtam, and Rangpo in the Teesta basin, have been flooded due to the rise in the river.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang and assured “all possible support” amid the flash floods. He said, “Spoke to Sikkim CM Shri Prem Singh Tamang and took stock of the situation in the wake of the unfortunate natural calamity in parts of the state. Assured all possible support in addressing the challenge. I pray for the safety and well-being of all those affected.”

Sikkim Chief Minister Tamang visited Singtam to assess the damages. “We are all aware of the recent natural calamity that has struck our state. Emergency services have been mobilized to the affected areas, and I personally visited Singtam to assess the damages and engage with the local community. I humbly urge all our citizens to remain vigilant and refrain from unnecessary travel during this critical time. It is essential that we maintain composure and hope for a swift return to normalcy in our region,” he wrote on his social media handle.

West Bengal Chief Minister also expressed concern over the flood situation in Sikkim and assured all possible help to the Sikkim government and Army in rescue operations. She also asked her government officials to make all arrangements to combat the possible flood situation in North Bengal and South Bengal.

A statement by the Army’s Eastern Command has said some establishments along Lachen valley have been affected.

“The release of water from the Chungthang dam led to a sudden increase in water level up to 15-20 feet high downstream. This has led to Army vehicles parked at Bardang near Singtam getting affected. 23 personnel have been reported missing, and some vehicles are reported submerged under the slush. Search operations are underway,” the statement said.

Sikkim has received heavy rain since last night. According to a statement issued by the Information and Cultural Affairs department of the Sikkim government, a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim caused it to overflow and pushed up the water levels in the Teesta River. The Teesta River flows through Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.

“The Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in portions of Lhonak Lake, Mangan District, which caused the rise of water levels with very high velocities downstream along the Teesta River Basin in the early hours of October 4, 2023, has caused severe damage in Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong, and Namchi Districts. The lake outburst in portions of Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim caused a rise in water levels with very high velocities, near about 15m/sec, crossed the Melli site measuring 227 m, near about 3m above Danger Level, at 0600 am,” read the statement.

According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), the flood occurred at midnight on October 3. “The river Teesta is flowing below the warning level at CWC Domohani FF Station. The water level at 0600 hrs is 84.83m and is expected to cross its warning level within 6 hours.”

Similarly, around 1 a.m. on October 4, 2023, the major flooding of the Teesta River was reported from Chunthang. Likewise, by 2:30 pm, the flood had reached the low-lying areas of the remaining districts, causing serious destruction to public properties and public infrastructure,” said the statement.

The India Meteorological Department has said Teesta is swollen after the lake in Sikkim’s Chungthang overflowed. “Low-lying areas such as Gazoldoba, Domohani, Mekhaliganj, and Ghish (in West Bengal) may be affected. Please be alert,” said the weather office.

The IMD has forecast heavy rainfall in Gangetic West Bengal and Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya region for the next two days.

“A Low Pressure Area lies over western parts of Gangetic West Bengal adjoining Jharkhand. It is very likely to move slowly northeastwards during the next 2 days across West Bengal. Isolated extremely heavy rainfall very likely over West Bengal, Sikkim, and Assam, Meghalaya during the next 2 days and Exceptionally heavy rainfall over Sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim on 05th October,” said IMD in a release.

“Isolated very heavy rainfall to continue over Bihar, Jharkhand, Gangetic West Bengal during the next 24 hours and occur over Arunachal Pradesh on 05th October and decrease over the region thereafter,” it added.

Santanu is a Senior Correspondent with The Indian Express, Kolkata and…

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