A sudden and devastating cloud burst over Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim triggered a flash flood in the Teesta River, particularly in the Lachen valley, on Wednesday. The situation was compounded by the release of water from a nearby dam, resulting in the unfortunate washing away of 23 army personnel, submersion of camps, and vehicles, according to officials.
The flash floods began around 1.30 am, catching the region by surprise. Defence authorities reported that establishments along the valley have been significantly impacted, and efforts are underway to ascertain the full extent of the damage.
The release of water from the Chungthang dam caused an abrupt surge in water levels downstream, reaching heights of 15-20 feet. This sudden increase in water levels also affected army vehicles parked near Bardang, close to Singtam, as confirmed by Defence spokesperson Lt. Col Mahendra Rawat.
Currently, 23 army personnel have been reported as missing, and 41 vehicles have been submerged in the slush created by the flash flood. Search and rescue operations are in progress, with the Border Road Organisation (BRO) launching efforts to assist. Thankfully, 80 locals have already been safely evacuated.
The flash flood has also had severe consequences on infrastructure. The Teesta river water completely washed away the vital 120-meter-cable suspension bridge known as the Indreni bridge in Gangtok district. This bridge served as a crucial thoroughfare over the Teesta river.
All the affected people of Singtam town have been taken to safe places, and residents of Dikchu village along the river belt have been evacuated to a nearby school,” stated a Sikkim government official.
Chief Minister PS Tamang visited Singtam to assess the damage caused by the flash flood in the Teesta river basin. In a meeting held at the Singtam Nagar Panchayat office, the CM urged senior officials to maintain vigilance and coordinate response efforts.
The government is actively addressing the challenges posed by the flooding and providing necessary support to those affected by this natural calamity. Additionally, the water level surge overnight has impacted the dam site of the 510 MV NHPC hydroelectric power project near Dikchu village, adding to the urgency of the situation.