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15 tourists rescued after massive earthquake by Indo-Tibetan Border Police

eTN received no reports of tourists harmed in latest Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim earthquake

Sep 18, 2011

ETN reporters from Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim, India had no reports of tourists harmed by the earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale that shook eastern parts of Nepal including Kathmandu valley Sunday evening. The strong tremors occurred around 6:26 pm (NST) and lasted for just about a minute.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has launched search and rescue operations in the Pegong area of north Sikkim, which has been "badly affected." The ITBP rescued 15 foreign tourists and 150 villagers in their operations. They have been moved to battalion headquarters. Rescue operations are, however, being hampered by heavy rainfall and landslides.

At least 18 people have been killed, 13 in India and 5 in Nepal, and over 100 are injured after the earthquake shook Sikkim this evening. Strong tremors were also felt in parts of North and East India and parts of Bangladesh and Nepal, causing widespread panic. The US Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was located just over 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Gangtok.

According to the National Seismologic Center (NSC) in Kathmandu, the epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake was in the border areas of Taplejung. Tremors were felt as far as Sikkim state in India.

Residents of Kathmandu valley were terrorized by the quake that rocked the city very briefly. Panic-stricken people came running out of cinema halls, malls, and offices after they felt the tremors. Mobile phone networks were also jammed as people started calling their loved ones to find out about their condition, while traffic in major thoroughfares were clogged for a while.

Three persons were killed when the boundary wall of the British Embassy at Lazimpat collapsed due to the earthquake and hit the persons on the road.

Sikkim Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso told the CNN-IBN news channel that there were initial reports of one child having been killed in the quake, but there was no immediate confirmation.

Residents of the state capital, Gangtok, said large cracks had developed in some buildings.

"It was a massive earthquake. We have alerted the armed forces and the paramilitary," Gyatso said.

Telephone lines to Gangtok were temporarily knocked out and mobile networks were quickly swamped, making communication with the affected area difficult.

Gangtok resident C.K. Dahal told CNN-IBN that the city had been plunged into darkness by a power cut immediately after the quake, which lasted for around 20 seconds.

"There is no electricity. Everybody is out on the road," Dahal said.

"We all ran out our houses, some even jumped out of their windows. You can see some buildings that have developed cracks," he added.

Manish Sharma, a doctor attending a conference in Gangtok, told the NDTV news channel that guests in his hotel had all run for the doors as soon as the first tremors were felt.

"I am standing in front of the legislative assembly of Gangtok, and I can see one of the outer buildings ... the upper side is in two parts," Sharma said.

"I can see light coming out of that particular portion. It has not collapsed, but it is in two parts; one part has moved aside," he said, "The police are trying to calm people down."

Powerful tremors were felt in Guwahati, the main city in neighboring Assam state, some 600 kilometers away, sending panicked residents running into the streets.

Hundreds of anxious tourists and office workers waited for news in car parks and on the streets as the seasonal monsoon rain lashed down.

In Bhutan, the capital of Thimpu was rocked by the tremors as well.

"Our wooden house is safe. Jars fell in kitchen, books fell from [the] shelf," Thimpu resident Aby Tharakan, a media consultant, said in a message posted on the microblogging website, Twitter.

The victims have been identified as Sajan Shrestha, 36; Anisha Shrestha, 8; and Bir Bahadur Majhi, 19. They were on the street when the debris of a wall struck them.

Meanwhile, 2 persons were killed in Dharan due to injuries they sustained while running for safety, reports said. The deceased have been identified as Bimal Pariyar and Santosh Pariyar.

TV reports showed at least 3 injured persons admitted at different hospitals in Kathmandu. They sustained injuries while rushing out of their places after the jolt.

Police personnel have been mobilized for rescue in some areas of Taplejung and Sankhusabha districts where damages of properties have been reported.

eTN received no reports of  tourists harmed in latest Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim earthquake
Source: eTN and wire services

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