Sikkim is the most popular tourist destination of the North East India. The month of March heralds arrival of spring and is considered as beginning of the tourist season when thousands of tourists from India and abroad throng the state.
This year, however the weather pattern in the State is not conforming to the yester years. Starting March, Sikkim has experienced unusually high rainfall throughout the State and heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of East and North Sikkim.
The Temperatures have remained 5 – 10 degrees below the normal and average rainfall being 70% in access of the normal. Even the Capital Gangtok has been lashed by heavy rains and hail storms and traffic disruptions. Consequentially a large number of tourists alongwith their vehicles and taxis got stranded at various locations enroute.
Border Roads Organization or the BRO as it is popularly called was one omni present organization present at remotest of places to help the distressed. Project Swastik of BRO has been developing and maintaining roads in Sikkim since 1960 and the BRO Karamyogis are the ones who are looked upon for any assistance in the adverse situations like what Sikkim has been witnessing. BRO has the requisite equipment of road works spread across the remote locations have already been the first to assist in case of any road disruptions.
In the month of March alone the Karmyogis of Swastik of BRO have assisted, more than 10,000 tourists and over 3000 vehicles stuck at various places in North and East Sikkim which includes popular tourist locales like Changu Lake, Nathu la, Baba Harbhajan Mandir, Zuluk, Lachen, Lachung, Guru Dongmar Lake, Valley of Flowers etc.
These daring Karmyogis of BRO, the brave hearts go about their work in a professional manner ensuring quick and fast opening of roads in most dangerous of scenarios without caring for own comfort and safety beyond the call of duty. Thought bulk of the force is deployed for removal of ice sleets, snow, landslides and the avalanches, a separate group of Karmyogis was busy providing food, shelter and relief to stranded people by way of organizing their overnight stay as well as transportation to safer places. This humanitarian efforts is something for which the organization is also geared up and this aspect was appreciated by one and all.
On 04 April 2023 at about 12:15 PM, approximately 400 tourists were enjoying the pristine beauty of the nature at one of the popular view points on the Jawahar Lal Nehru (JNM) road leading to Nathula and about 22 of them taking photographs on the snow clad mountain got trapped in an Avalanche which got triggered unexpectedly at Mile 14 of this road.
Swift Rescue operation was launched by Project Swastik of BRO, where in 22 tourists have been rescued till now, six (06) of whom were rescued from deep valley.
The rescued tourists have been shifted to the nearest hospital. One (01) lady was rescued after toiling for one and an half hour, being buried under the snow and she was sent to the STNM Hospital in BRO Ambulance. In addition, 15 tourists who were partially buried under snow were rescued and provided First Aid and have send back to Gangtok. As per the latest reports, seven (07) tourists who were sent to the hospital have unfortunately expired.
Apart from this, more than 350 stranded tourists and 80 vehicles which were stuck at the Avalanche site have been rescued after snow clearance from JNM road and sent to Gangtok after medical checkup.
The rescue operation, monitored at site by Chief Engineer, Project Swastik BRO alongwith his team of officers and men had to be halted at about 1745 Hrs due to heavy snowfall and zero visibility. The rescue operations will recommence in the morning by BRO.
Nitesh R Pradhan
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