In a letter to the chief minister of Sikkim on Wednesday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed sadness and offered prayers at the loss of life in the northeastern Indian state, after heavy rainfall caused a glacial lake to overflow, leading to severe flash floods.
The Tibetan spiritual leader also pledged that funds would be donated by the Dalai Lama Trust to support relief and rescue efforts.
According to the latest figures at the time of writing, the death toll from the floods—reported to be one of the worst disasters in the region in 50 years—has now reached at least 40 people, with more than 100 reported to be missing.
“I offer my condolences to families who have lost loved ones as well as others affected by this disaster, and pray for their welfare,” His Holiness wrote to the state’s chief minister, Prem Singh Tamang.
“I commend the state government and other concerned authorities for all they are doing to provide relief to people affected by this calamity. As a mark of my solidarity with the people of Sikkim, I have asked the Dalai Lama Trust to make a donation toward relief and rescue efforts.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Floodwaters swept across Sikkim’s Teesta River Valley on Tuesday night, trigged by a cloudburst over a mountain lake and water released from a nearby dam into the Teesta River. The flood destroyed power infrastructure at the dam before sweeping through towns and villages downstream, washing away homes, roads, and bridges, and forcing thousands of people to flee.
Media reports indicated that about 2,400 people have been rescued since Wednesday, with 26 injured taken to hospital in the state’s worst floods since October 1968, when an estimated 1,000 people were killed.
“We are evacuating [people] through helicopters provided by the army and the air force,” Sikkim’s state chief secretary, Vinay Bhushan Pathak, was quoted as saying today. (Al Jazeera)
Search and rescue personnel have been deployed across Sikkim and in northern areas of the neighboring state of West Bengal. Affected areas remain on high alert.
“Road connectivity between districts has been cut off and bridges have been washed away,” the chief minister said today. (BBC News)
According to the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority, more than 22,000 people have been affected by the disaster. The state authorities have set up 26 relief camps in response. A state official said that some 7,600 people were now being housed in the camps.
The state weather department said that Sikkim had received 101 millimeters of rain in the first five days of October—more than double normal levels for the time of year.
“We thought the water level wouldn’t rise as it was very low, but as the water was released from the dam, the levels started to rise slowly and after the dam burst our houses were washed away,” said Sikkim resident Keval Tamong. (Al Jazeera)
The floods are the latest in a series of extreme weather events that have caused widespread damage in the Himalayan region in recent years—events blamed by scientists on climate change, the Reuters news agency reported.
“Water levels have receded in some areas but north Sikkim has been totally cut off. Relief teams are unable to reach the affected areas there,” state official Tseten Bhutia told Reuters, adding that mobile and landline phone networks were not working in the area.
Expressing Sadness Over the Flooding in Sikkim (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Dalai Lama Trust
Death toll rises to 40 after glacial lake flooding in Indian Himalayas, dozens still missing (Reuters)
Death toll rises to 40 in India’s Sikkim flooding after lake overflow (Al Jazeera)
Sikkim flood: Death toll rises to 22, rescue efforts continue (BBC News)
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