Gangtok, Oct 17 (IANS) A month after a quake devastated the mountainous state of Sikkim, defence personnel are still engaged in relief and reconstruction work in the state's North district though roads are still in poor shape, hindering quick and safe transportation of relief material.
The army, air force and Border Roads Organisation personnel were working virtually round the clock in 'Operation Sahayata', a defence release said. The IAF has deployed its Mi-17s, Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.
The Sep 18 quake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale and epicentred near the Nepal-Sikkim border, caused utter devastation in Sikkim - especially in the North district - killing at least 80 people and injuring many others.
Soon after the tragedy, the army had mobilised 214 columns, totalling nearly 5,500 troops, including two Special Forces columns, to reach the inaccessible and completely cut-off villages - Sakkyong, Phontong and Be.
The army troops covered over 106 villages along the major axis of Mangan, Chungthang, Lachung, Chhaten, Dikchu, Geyzing and Zema, the worst-affected regions of North Sikkim. A total of 971 tourists including 12 foreigners were among those evacuated by air or taken to safer locations by alternate modes.
Road clearance work is still currently underway on the Toong - Chungthang, Chungthang - Lachung and Chungthang - Lachen axis. Even the robust, 10-inches thick iron girders laid on some of the stretches on the Toong - Chungthang axis to prevent soil and rock giving away beneath, failed to hold the weight of the fractured rocks, mangling them beyond usefulness.
'With a little luck' (referring to the clear weather) and 'with dedication of a few of my good men, the Chungthang - Lachung road should be open shortly,' said Col P.H. Reddy, commander 758 BRTF (Border Roads Task Force) at Chungthang.