More dead in Himalaya quake as rescue efforts slow
Sep 20, 2011, 12:02 a.m.
By Biswajyoti Das
GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) - Air force helicopters flew rescue workers to a remote Himalayan region on Tuesday in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that killed at least 67 people in India, Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet.
Most of the casualties were near the epicenter of Sunday's 6.9 magnitude quake in the sparsely populated India state of Sikkim, popular with tourists for its Buddhist monasteries and spectacular trekking.
"So far 40 people have died and there is a shortage of space to admit patients in hospitals," said an official at the state's health ministry.
Landslides, rain and fog hampered relief efforts for a second day, with many of the region's high mountain passes being blocked. But army helicopters took advantage of a break in the clouds to fly a small group of rescuers into Mangan, a small town ringed by snow-capped mountains near the epicenter.
The quake killed at least seven people in Nepal and seven more in Tibet. At least 13 died elsewhere in India.
With soil waterlogged after days of rain, fresh landslides blocked the main access to the state overnight, leaving the bulk of hundreds of rescue workers deployed from New Delhi unable to reach the worst-hit areas.
For centuries a rarely visited Buddhist kingdom known for the world's third highest peak in its border with Nepal called Kangchenjunga and glacial lakes, Sikkim joined India in 1975. With 600,000 residents, it is the most sparsely populated state and borders Bhutan, Tibet in China and Nepal.
The state's economy boomed in recent years as it opened up to tourism and trade with China. Residents say landslides are a threat to hastily built new buildings in its mountain towns.
(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Additional reporting by Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)