Gangtok, April 4 (IANS) Scores of tourists were caught by an avalanche on Tuesday while taking photos along the snow-covered hill side of Jawaharlal Nehru Marg which connects Gangtok to the tourism spots of Tsomgo Lake and Nathula border. Casualties are feared even though relief and rescue operations are going on a war-footing to extract the trapped tourists under the avalanche.
The initial estimate is that about 30 tourists were caught by the avalanche, as per the BRO.
The calamity took place near 17th Mile of Jawaharlal Nehru Marg at around 12.15 pm, about 25 km away from Gangtok.
As per information available, rescue and relief operations are being undertaken by Sikkim Police, BRO, Army, government departments and tour operators. The figures of injuries and fatalities are not known immediately.
Since past two-three weeks, the higher altitudes of Sikkim including Tsomgo Lake and Nathu La have received heavy snowfall. On many occasions, tourists returning from Tsomgo Lake and Nathu La had been stranded due to afternoon snowstorm blocking the road.
A tour operator informed that on Tuesday, tourists going to Tsomgo Lake had stopped near 17th Mile where the road was blocked with heavy snowfall. The tourists went walking to the hill side to take photos and enjoy the snow when suddenly an avalanche came down and washed away scores of tourists down the road.
Videos circulating in social media show some tourists being pulled out from the avalanche. Many tourists had been washed away down below the road into the gorge. Some could be seen lying unconscious on top of the snow below the road.
A BRO source informed that 17 tourists have been pulled out from the avalanche and shifted to Army hospitals nearby.
Meanwhile, about 350 tourists who were not in the avalanche zone are returning back to Gangtok after the BRO cleared the road towards the state capital.