Gangtok, April 05: Search and rescue operations continued for the second day on Wednesday, following a massive avalanche in the Nathu La area of East Sikkim on Tuesday, which claimed the lives of seven tourists and injured 13 others.
The Indian Army, Border Road Organisation (BRO), and police are conducting search and rescue operations to ascertain if there are more people still trapped in the area.
Search and rescue at the avalanche-hit site along JNM Road resumed at 8am today, under coordinated efforts of NDRF, SDRF, Army, BRO, DDMA, Sikkim Police, ITBP, tourism stakeholders, drivers & locals. Tourism Minister Shri B.S. Panth also reached the spot this morning. @dmgtksk pic.twitter.com/GUe3lJULql
— sikkimgovtipr (@sikkimgovt) April 5, 2023
The avalanche hit the arterial Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, which connects the state capital Gangtok to Nathu La at the China border, at around 11:30 AM, burying five to six vehicles with about 30 people under the snow.
Nathu La is a major tourist destination and one of the most important Himalayan passes in the country, located on the border with China.
The rescue operations started at 8 AM on Wednesday, according to East Sikkim District Collector Tushar Nikhane. The area has been receiving heavy snowfall for the past few days, leading to heightened avalanche warnings. The exact cause of the avalanche is yet to be ascertained.
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang visited the STNM hospital on Tuesday night where the injured were hospitalized and interacted with the tourists. He stated that all injured people, irrespective of their domicile, will be treated for free and that the bodies of the deceased will be sent to their homes.
The Prime Minister’s Office expressed condolences and confirmed that rescue operations are ongoing, with all possible assistance being provided to those affected. The President of India, Union Home Minister, and other political leaders also expressed their condolences.
The incident highlights the need for greater awareness of avalanche-prone areas, especially in popular tourist destinations such as Nathu La. Authorities must take necessary steps to prevent such tragedies and implement appropriate measures to ensure the safety of tourists and residents alike.