Guwahati, Monday, September 26, 2011
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Sikkim quake survivors trek, crawl to safety
 MANGAN, Sept 25 – With rescue teams finding it difficult to reach far-flung quake-hit areas in Sikkim, hundreds of survivors are trekking out of their villages, crawling sometimes to negotiate dangerous stretches.Hundreds of villagers from inaccessible higher areas of Lachung, Lachen and Chungthan have gathered in Tung after an arduous trek down and are being taken to safe places.

Army sources said hundreds of villagers reached Tung, 10 km from Chungthang, one of the worst-hit areas, and many were still trekking down from the remote areas of Lachen, Lachung and Chungthang. Karma Bhutia, 30, who arrived from Lachen on Friday after trekking for two days, said, “We panicked due to the fresh landslides triggered by rain at Lachen on Wednesday night, when huge boulders started hurtling down the hills”.

“We first escaped to Guma and spent the night there. Next morning, we started trekking through extremely difficult terrains covered with debris,” he said.

Bhutia spoke of how some of the villagers had to crawl some distances since the wet soil could have caved in if they had walked on such stretches.

Meanwhile, 22 engineers of a private construction firm have been rescued and are being sent to Gangtok. Army sources said 22 engineers and technicians of Poddar Construction, engaged by the Teesta Urja Project, were rescued from Tung, five days after their bus was stranded during the powerful earthquake in Sikkim.

“Their bus was halted by a huge boulder and our men rescued them from Tung on Thursday.

According to Bipul Halder, the project manager of Poddar Construction, “The situation was very bad. We were stranded and could not come out of the bus. We had to survive with the little ration that was left with us.”

Labourers returning to Gangtok from the Teesta Stage III hydel project site at Chungthang in worst-hit North district on Friday claimed that 70 of their colleagues were still missing.

A group of labourers belonging to the Euphoria company, one of the several companies engaged by the Teesta-Urja company, returned to Gangtok. They said there were around 5,000 people still at Chungthang, including labourers and project officials, and many bodies might still be trapped under debris.

However, neither the North district administration nor the Teesta-Urja company has confirmed the labourers’ account.

The labourers said nearly all houses at Chungthang were damaged and there was no clean water to drink.

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