statesman news service
GANGTOK, 27 JUNE: Personnel of the Army&’s 17th Mountain (Black Cat) Division  has rescued about 250 tourists last night when they were found stranded near Changu Lake (13,300 ft height) around 15 km ahead of Nathula at the Indo-China Border in East Sikkim after the terrain experienced heavy showers and landslides.
A senior Army officer of the 17th Division informed that severe landslides had occurred at Kyangonosa La on J N Marg near Nathula following heavy rainfall yesterday. “The landslide has left over 250 civilian tourists stranded on the road,” he added.
Spending the night in the cold with heavy rainfall continuing at a place with no hotels and civilian facilities would have been a nightmare for them. However, the Army units at Kyangonosa La came to the relief of the distressed tourists. The Army provided centrally-heated accommodation for stay, hot meals and milk to the children for about 230 tourists, consisting of 95 men, 83 women and 51 children till they moved out for Gangtok today morning.
One of the stranded tourists said a possible nightmare has turned into a night to remember thanks to the care and hospitality shown by the Army jawans. The Chief Engineer of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Mr S S Porwal, said that BRO jawans had worked with bulldozers to clear the roads during night.
The road is learnt to have been opened at 9 p.m. and five to six vehicles left for Gangtok and reached there by 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Sikkim government has declared that from today till next Saturday, no vehicle carrying either tourists or traders would be allowed on the Gangtok-Nathula Road. This is in response to the heavy rain forecast in the sub-Himalayan regions of Sikkim for the next 48 hours from the Meteorological Department. The state authorities decided not to allow vehicles along JN Marg (Gangtok-Nathula Road) beyond Second Mile Check-post.
Mr Porwal also mentioned that the North Sikkim Highways could be closed at any time because of the landslides, particularly in Phodong and Lanthekhola areas and also some parts of the Lachen routes on way to Gurudongmar Lake.
The Indian Meteorological Department in-charge for Sikkim, Mr Gopinath Raha, informed that till yesterday the volume of rainfall being recorded was between 64.5 mm to 124.4 mm. “This falls under the category of heavy rainfall,” he added.