Gangtok: In a startling turn of events, South Lhonak Lake, nestled in North West Sikkim, burst its banks during the early hours of Wednesday, around 12:40 am, triggering a flash flood that has left the region on high alert. Initially, it was believed that a cloud burst had led to this catastrophic event. However, subsequent investigations revealed that the lake, previously safeguarded by a special embankment to mitigate the risk of flash floods, had succumbed to a glacial lake outburst.
Flash Flood Chaos
The resultant flash flood surged through the Teesta River, causing significant damage to infrastructure in its path. The Indreni Bridge in Singtam town, located approximately 30 km from Gangtok, was swept away, according to reports from the Gangtok District Administration. In addition, a connecting bridge in Balutar hamlet met a similar fate around 4 am. Fortunately, as of now, there have been no reported casualties.
Dam Concerns and Evacuations
Chungthang town, situated about 90 km north of Gangtok, houses the Teesta Stage 3 dam, and local residents have been evacuated following a high alert issued by authorities. In a parallel response to the emergency, the Teesta Stage 5 Dam at Dikchu, also in the Mangan district, was opened for water discharge after a high alert was sounded. Disturbingly, it has been reported that the control room of the dam sustained severe damage. The release of water from Dikchu was initiated nearly one and a half hours after the lake’s sudden breach.
Swift Response and Relief Efforts
In Singtam, a major town near the Teesta River, numerous homes in areas adjoining the river have been evacuated as a precautionary measure. Rescue operations are currently underway across regions facing the Teesta River, with temporary relief centers established at Singtam Senior Secondary School.
Amidst this crisis, the state government has taken swift action by issuing a notice. In light of the ongoing emergency, all government and private schools in Gangtok, Pakyong, Namchi, and Mangan districts will remain closed until October 8, ensuring the safety of students and staff in the affected areas.
The situation in Sikkim remains dynamic, with authorities and residents vigilantly monitoring developments and responding to the evolving challenges posed by this unexpected natural disaster.
Gangtokian Web Team, 04/10/23