Rescue workers are searching for almost 100 people after flash floods triggered by sudden heavy rainfall swamped several towns in north-eastern India, killing at least 18 people, officials said.
More than 2,000 people were rescued after Wednesday’s floods, the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority said, adding that state authorities set up 26 relief camps for more than 22,000 people affected by the floods.
Eighteen bodies have been found so far, said Vinay Bhushan Pathak, the top state bureaucrat.
Vinay Bhushan Pathak, the top state bureaucrat, said nearly 3,000 tourists and 700 drivers with their vehicles have been stranded in the flood-hit areas.
“We are evacuating them through helicopters provided by the army and the air force,” he said.
Eleven bridges were washed away by floodwaters, which also hit pipelines and damaged or destroyed more than 270 houses in four districts, officials said.
The flooding occurred along the Teesta River in the Lachen Valley in Sikkim state and was worsened when parts of a dam were washed away.
Several towns, including Dikchu and Rangpo in the Teesta basin, were flooded, and schools in four districts were ordered to be shut until Sunday, the state’s education department said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said in a statement that the government would support state authorities in the aftermath of the flooding.
The flooding was caused by cloudbursts — sudden, very heavy rains — which are defined as when more than 10cm (3.9 inches) of rainfall occurs within 10 square km (3.8 square miles) within an hour. Cloudbursts can cause intense flooding and landslides.
The mountainous Himalayan region where Sikkim is located has seen heavy monsoon rains this season.
Nearly 50 people died in flash floods and landslides in August in nearby Himachal Pradesh state. Record rains in July killed more than 100 people over two weeks in northern India, as roads were waterlogged and homes collapsed.