13 killed as powerful quake jolts North East

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NEW DELHI, September 18 (agencies) : A powerful earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude jolted Sikkim and several areas of northeast on Sunday leaving at least 13 persons dead and several injured besides causing extensive damage to several buildings.

The epicentre of the quake — the biggest in two decades — was located at Mangan and Sakyong areas, over 50 km from Gangtok on Sikkim—Nepal border.

Seven persons were killed in Sikkim — two at Singtham in East district, two in Rishi in West district and one at Mangan in North district, Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso told PTI. Mr. Gyatso said two others had also died in other places, but could not give details.

In neighbouring West Bengal four deaths were reported — three in Darjeeling district and one in Jalpaiguri district, Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh said. Of the deaths in Darjeeling district, one each occurred in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Siliguri sub-divisions, Mr. Ghosh said.

In Bihar, two persons were killed in Nalanda and Darbhanga districts, official sources said. A five-year-old girl and a youth were the two victims, they said.

The National Disaster Relief Force in on way to Sikkim and would reach Sikkim by Monday, Mr. Gyatso said.

Many tall buildings developed cracks in Gangtok and Darjeeling and window panes shattered as people came out in large numbers in panic. The earthquake claimed one life at Singtham in East Sikkim district, while another died just outside Singtham.

The epicentre of the quake — the biggest in two decades — was located at Mangan and Sakyong areas, over 50 km from Gangtok on Sikkim—Nepal border.

Tremors were felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi.

Several buildings developed major cracks in the state as personnel of the Disaster Management were deployed, Mr. Gyatso said.

Two buildings of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) collapsed in Pegong area though there was no immediate report of any casualty, a senior official said.

Three after shocks of 5.7, 5.3 and 4.6 magnitude on the Richter Scale were felt in the region within 30 minutes of the first quake.

“Tremors were felt between 30 seconds to one minute in some parts of Sikkim, including Gangtok,” Shailesh Nayak, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said in Delhi.

Mr. Gyatso described it as “a massive earthquake. We have alerted the armed forced and the paramilitary personnel.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and offered help in all possible ways, including availability of defence forces.

The Prime Minister directed Cabinet Secretary to call an emergency meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority, PMO sources said.

IAF planes pressed into service

Five IAF aircraft have been pressed into service for relief operations in quake-hit Sikkim.

While two C-130J Hercules aircraft have been deployed from Hindon to Bagdogra airbase, two AN-32 aircraft along with another Avro aircraft have been sent for the earthquake relief operations in Sikkim, an Indian Air Force spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that helicopters, if required, could be sent from Eastern Air Command areas for the relief operations.

A government spokesman, however, said while one aircraft is pressed into service from Palam to Bagdogra and one from Kolkata to Bagdogra, along with personnel of the National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) and equipment, for the relief operations.

From Bagdogra airbase, the spokesman added, the NDRF would go by road which is being facilitated by the Border Security Force (BSF) and the West Bengal Government.

The quake which was felt for some seconds around 6:10 pm triggered panic among the people who were enjoying their Sunday evening.

 

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