The toll from the flash floods in Sikkim climbed to 22 on Friday, PTI reported. The dead include seven Indian Army soldiers. At least 103 people, including 15 soldiers, are still missing.

The floods were triggered by a glacial lake outburst in northern Sikkim’s Lachen valley. Chief Secretary VB Pathak said that the Lhonak Lake breached its embankment after heavy rains and discharged large volumes of water into the Teesta river, raising its levels.

The disaster has hit nearly 10,000 people in Mangan district, 6,895 in Pakyong, 2,579 in Namchi, and 2,570 in Gangtok, PTI reported. The floods also destroyed 11 bridges, eight of them in Mangan, a couple in Namchi and one in Gangtok, as well as water pipelines, sewage lines and 277 houses.

The state’s biggest hydropower project, Sikkim Urja, was washed away along with a 200-metre bridge leading to its powerhouse.

The Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority said that it has rescued 2,411 people so far. Tourists stranded in Lachen, Lachung and adjoining areas in North Sikkim are safe, and rescue workers will evacuate them on Friday if the weather permits, said Pathak.

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang told PTI that around 25,000 people have been affected by the calamity. Over 7,600 people displaced by the floods have been sheltered at 26 relief camps in four affected districts.

The search for the 15 missing Army soldiers is now focused on the downstream areas of the Teesta as the river may have carried them to northern West Bengal. The West Bengal government said they had recovered the bodies of 18 people killed by the floods in Sikkim from Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.

Speaking with NDTV, Tamang claimed that “inferior construction” by the previous state government resulted in the destruction of the Chungthang Dam. The 1,200-megawatt hydroelectric project washed away on Wednesday in the flash floods.

“Dam is fully damaged... washed out,” Tamang said. “Disaster in the lower belt is because of this. Yes... there was a cloudburst and the Lhonak Lake burst... but, because of inferior and sub-standard construction by the previous government, the dam broke and even more floods hit Lower Sikkim with violence.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs constituted an inter-ministerial central team on Friday to assess the damage caused by the floods. Technical teams from the ministries of power, telecommunication and roads, highways and transport are assisting in restoring the state’s communication network and damaged infrastructure.

Another lake breach warning

The Sikkim government has started evacuating people from the banks of the Shako Cho Lake near Lachen in Mangan after the authorities warned that the lake may burst soon, reported NDTV.

According to Gangtok District Magistrate Tushare Nikhare, there has been an abnormal increase in glacial temperature over Sako Chu. The situation will, however, not remain a matter for concern in case the temperature stabilises, he said.

“As a precautionary measure, however, an evacuation advisory is in place,” said Nikhare. “Since silt has been deposited, any sudden discharge of water will be at an elevated level over deposited debris and can cause damage.”

The authorities have cleared the Golitar area in Gangtok district, Dikchu in Mangan district and Rangpo IBM area in Pakyong district.