At least fourteen people have died and 102 individuals, including 22 Army personnel, are missing after heavy rainfall caused a lake outburst in parts of the highly vulnerable Lhonak Lake in north Sikkim, resulting in flash flood in the Teesta river basin.
Efforts are currently underway to locate those who are missing, Indian Express reported citing officials.
The flood in Lachen valley affected some Army establishments and water release from the Chungthang dam exacerbated the situation, according to the Army's Eastern Command.
“Release of water from the Chungthang dam led to a sudden increase in water level up to 15-20 feet high downstream. This led to Army vehicles parked at Bardang near Singtam getting affected. 23 personnel have been reported missing and some vehicles are reported submerged under the slush. Search operations are underway,” it said in a statement.
One of the missing soldiers was rescued later in the evening. His condition was reported as stable.
According to the India Meteorological Department, Sikkim experienced nearly 41 mm of rainfall between 8 am on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was nearly five times the usual amount for this time of year.
South Sikkim received rainfall that was 33 times higher than normal, while East Sikkim received 15 times more rainfall in the span of 24 hours. The IMD has forecasted more rainfall until 6 October.
The state disaster management authority has stated that the lake outburst caused flooding in the Teesta River, which flows through Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
In the early morning, the Central Water Commission (CWC) suggested on X that the lake burst may have been triggered by the earthquake in Nepal on Tuesday, although further details were not provided.
Lhonak Lake, which is situated at a height of 5,200 metres above sea-level, is one of the vulnerable glacial lakes in Sikkim that can burst under stress.
Satellite images from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) indicate that this is likely what occurred between 3 and 4 October.
"It is observed that the lake is burst and about 105 hectares (about one square km) area (of the lake) has been drained out which might have created a flash flood downstream,” the ISRO said in a statement, releasing satellite images of 28 September and 4 October for comparison.
The floods have resulted in significant damage in downstream districts, as per the state disaster management authority.
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