ANKARA – Search and rescue efforts to find dozens of people missing after flash floods swept through India's northeastern Sikkim state entered third day on Friday, even as the official death toll continued to rise.
Nineteen people have been pronounced dead since a sudden surge from the Teesta River, Sikkim's Chief Secretary Vijay Bhushan Pathak told Anadolu over the phone, adding that 103 are still missing.
"The search operation is going on," Pathak noted.
India's National Disaster Management Authority said Wednesday that the swelling floodwaters had damaged infrastructure projects, including the Chungthang Dam, in the upper reaches of the river valley.
"While scientists are investigating the exact cause of the flash flood, the primary reason for the sudden surge appears to be a likely combination of excess rainfall and a GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) event at South Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim," it said.
Sikkim's disaster management authorities said 26 people were injured and more than 2,000 evacuated.
In neighboring West Bengal state, authorities in the Jalpaiguri district told Anadolu that they recovered 25 bodies of people swept away in the flash floods.
"Out of 25, four are army men," a senior official, who requested anonymity, told Anadolu over the phone.
Police in Jalpaiguri district also issued an advisory urging vigilance in light of the floods carrying away some military equipment, including firearms and explosives, down the Teesta River.
The Indian Army also said it formed lookout teams downstream.
Earlier, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said "all steps" were taken to evacuate people in the districts of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri to safer areas.
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang told Indian news broadcaster NDTV that "major damage" had been reported across the state. He said authorities' first priority was to rescue 3,000 stranded tourists.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday that the search for the missing soldiers continued with a focus on downstream areas.
"At the site of incident at Burdang near Singtam, the army vehicles are being dug out and stores being recovered. Additional resources in terms of teams of TMR (Tiranga Mountain Rescue), tracker dogs, special radars have been brought in, to assist in the search operations," Lieut. Col. Mahendra Rawat said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the army said 23 soldiers were missing while one was rescued late that evening. (Anadolu)