Yuksom, Sikkim: A cloudburst at Tsong village in Sikkim washed away the whole village and left one woman dead on September 16. Villagers put up in relief camps are distressed about how to rebuild their lives from scratch.
Bimal Gurung, a 24-year-old man, who is in a medical relief camp at a government building at Yuksom, has been sitting idle for the last ten days. His family members were sitting at mats spread in a room in this building, while a couple of handbags were spread in the room. A list of people assigned with kitchen and cleaning duties had been posted outside every room in this building.
Tsong village is located 8 kms from Yuksom in West Sikkim district of Sikkim. Torrential rain which continued for 30-45 minutes killed one and washed out all houses in the village, leaving over 300 villagers homeless. Besides, five bridges around the village over Rangeet river, a tributary of Teesta, were also damaged. Heavy rainfall also caused landslides blocking the ways in and out of the village.
It takes 30-40 minutes to drive up to Tsong from Yuksom, located at 1,700 metres above sea level.
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Sanchen Subba, who cultivates cardamom and maize on his half acre land, along with his wife Aitamaya and two kids were at home when it started pouring. He said, “Landslides started as soon as heavy rain started pouring. Villagers started going to safer places. I, along with my family, hiked up for an hour in the forest in the dark to go to trekkers’ hut. My wife, who was carrying our daughter Ashna, slipped while walking. Police and government officials next day came and brought us here to the relief camp in Yuksom. We had to walk down 8 kms to Yuksom as roads were closed due to landslides along the way.”
Aitamaya, showing her fractured leg, said, “I had to carry my daughter here even after I slipped. During medical check up, doctors told my leg had been fractured.”
Sanchen is worried about his livelihood after his cardamom crop was washed away. He said, “I lost the crop four months before the harvesting season December. I get around 70-80 kgs of it per year. I feel restless to go home but officers told us that they will be able to rebuild houses by December. I and my elder son go to Tsong everyday to take care of our only cow and return by evening.”
Ninety eight people from 20 families who are staying at this camp are worried about leaving their houses behind for a long period. They are willing to start farming as soon as possible.
Ghanshyam Chetri, 37-year-old, who works under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and owns half acre land at Tsong, recounted how he witnessed his house falling to pieces as parts of the hill behind his home fell on his house. He said, “Fortunately, I, along with my family, were at my mother's home that is nearby.”
Dr Sonam Rinchen Lepcha, sub divisional magistrate, Geyzing (West Sikkim), who is in charge of the relief camp at Yuksom, said, “Heavy downpour for 30-45 minutes washed away the village. It looks like a case of cloudburst based on the description given by villagers. However, experts are trying to find out whether it was heavy rain or cloudburst.”
He added, “Tsong, the affected village, had 4-5 houses which were completely damaged. Other houses are partially damaged. The village is known for milk production and supplies it nearby villages. Many cattle have died and our teams are assessing the number of deaths.”
“Villagers were rescued and put up in three camps including one at Yuksom. Buddhi Subba, 81-year-old, who was injured during the havoc died after being under treatment for two days at a hospital. The government has roped in various departments to find out whether the village is liveable or not. If it is not, all villagers will be rehabilitated in other places,” he further said.
P S Golay, chief minister of Sikkim during his visit to the village on September 20 had announced ex-gratia amount of Rs 50,000 per family. He also announced that the government will give further help as per losses suffered by the families.