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Sikkim safe, restricting tourists not on agenda: Gangtok DC

Gangtok: District Collector Tushar Nikhare on Wednesday evening said that “Sikkim is very safe” and that there was “no agenda to restrict the number of tourists visiting the area in the future”.

The Gangtok DC addressed a press conference after the rescue operations for the avalanche hit Gangtok Nathula Highway was called off on Wednesday afternoon. The DC declared that no person was found missing in the avalanche. The rescue operations began at 8 am on Wednesday to ensure that there were no more tourists buried under the snow slide. Until 3 pm, no missing person could be traced, and no person was suspected of being under the slide, the DC informed.

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The DC shared, “We couldn’t save seven lives, but the lessons learned will help us in the long run. We had a radar system in place to see under 20 meters below the snow while scanning the entire area, but no traces of anyone trapped was found.”

He also mentioned that while landslides are common in the area, they are better prepared now, and the rescue operations that were carried out were very smooth. Finally, he assured that ex gratia for the victims will be released soon.

The Gangtok District Administration informed that the remains of five deceased individuals have been handed over to their families. Meanwhile, the bodies of the remaining two individuals have been kept in the STNM Hospital mortuary and will be handed over to their families tomorrow morning. “The state government will bear all the expenses related to injuries treatment and transportation, as earlier announced by Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay,” the administration said.

Regarding the possibility of restricting tourist flow in the avalanche-hit area, Nikhare shared that they do not want to stop the flow of tourists. He stated that Sikkim is a safe place compared to most parts of the country.

“Permits are issued based on the carrying capacity of the road and parking spaces. We gave been issuing a similar number of permits during the tourist season. However, a decision will be taken on whether to restrict the number of vehicles that are given passes,” the DC said.



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The Gangtok DC presented several precautionary measures that could be increased to help tourists in the future. He stated that the helpline would remain open for enquiries in the future, and they would identify all locations where snowslides can happen and place signages. Vehicles will not be allowed to be parked in any such locations, and no selfies will be allowed.

The search operations were aided by National Disaster Relief Force teams from Pakyong, Sikkim, and Siliguri, West Bengal, along with Indo-Tibetan border police, Tiranga Mountain Rescue Team, SDRF, GREF, Indian Army, and citizens.

Also Read | Sikkim avalanche: Three Nepal victims taken to border

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