Earthquake 18/09 Nepal / Sikkim Himalaya - Update September 26 - at least 107 people killed

Also written by Szombath Balazs and Ashish Khanal

Earthquake overview : A magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the Himalayan states Nepal and Sikkim (India) 12:40:48 UT (6:11 PM at epicenter). The depth of the hypocenter was at 20.7 km. The earthquake has caused over 100 victims so far and much damage in India, Nepal and Tibet (China). It was also well felt in Bangladesh and some damage has been reported from Bhutan.

Nepal update September 26
Figures released on 23 September by the NEOC, indicate that the number of fatalities remains at 6 persons, 24 people are severely injured and 160
persons have minor injuries. 16500 persons are reportedly displaced (3500 families - own Earthquake-Report numbers based on the number of destroyed buildings and the demographics from the area). 2322 houses/buildings are completely destroyed and 2780 partially damaged.
81 public buildings (Government infrastructures such as health facilities, community buildings, schools, electricity stations etc) are reported to be destroyed with a further 406 buildings partially damaged.

Most of the schools in eastern Nepal have been damaged. Students are having their classes on the open field. More than 65 schools are damaged in Jhapa only(Eastern Nepal)

China (Tibet) update September 26 (report of September 20 as we haven't published anything on Tibet as yet)
Seven people have died and 136 others have been injured in Tibet
The earthquake had caused hundreds of landslides that disrupted traffic, power and water supplies, as well as telecommunications in Yadong County, which is 40 km away from Sikkim. The road traffic to the county had resumed on the morning of September 19. Dozens of earthquake victims were seen wrapped in cotton quilts and camped on the streets.
Galingang Village was the hardest hit. The 156 houses in the village were all badly damaged, leaving everyone homeless. 355 students were temporarily living in tents.
China seismological agency has located the epicenter just west of the Nepal / Sikkim border (contrary to USGS which located the epicenter in Nepal)

India Update September 26
With the recovery of a body from a building in Gangtok, Sikkim, the death toll in Sikkim increased to 93. Rains and landslides are continuing to hamper the rescue operations.
The northern district of Sikkim (least populated) suffered the highest losses with 74 victims. 14 in the East district, 1 in the South district and 4 in the Western district.
At least 13 villages in the north district (closest to the epicenter) remained inaccessible.
Many roads are still blocked by landslides (watching the 20 minute video from another article we published shows the severe conditions for rescue teams). In another report from the Times of India, army official said that troops have reached almost all villages, but in many villages they found only rubble. It could be due to the residents migrating to nearest road-heads, or other villages, or there could be worse than assessed disaster buried in those villages, he admitted. A lack of serious population registers is responsible for additional confusion. Due to all this, the exact number of killed, injured and homeless people will probably and unfortunately never be known.

Daily News and Analysis India writes : Geologists warn that another earthquake in the region might lead to changes in the region and may even affect the course of Teesta, the major river flowing through this region and part of a giant hydro-electric project which also suffered an number of victims.
Even as the state is yet to recover from the devastating September 18 earthquake, scientists say that more earthquakes in the seismic region are overdue. "Any earthquake particularly in the hilly region which is always considered topographically vulnerable, will experience a morphological and topographical change but the extent of change after this quake cannot be assessed right now.

The Times of India writes : Due to faster melting of the glaciers since the earthquake (...), geologists say the increasing flow of water could threaten the flora and fauna of the Kanchenjunga National Park, the highest national park in India. In the past couple of days, black water has been flowing out of the mountains, and some traditional springs have gone missing. Geologists feel these are warnings of flash floods.

September 24 / 2011 update

As sometimes happens in earthquakes, the death toll has actually reduced according to official government sources. This happens when double counting of victims occurs between districts. (Our viewers may remember Chile 2010, where the death toll reduced by almost 300 from the 800+ dead a few days after the earthquake, to 523).


Official Minimum Death toll in regions:
Sikkim - East 12, North 54, West 4, South 1 === 71
Bengal - 12
Bihar - 9 
India (Total) - 92
Nepal - 6
Tibet - 7
Bhutan - 1
This gives a total of 106 dead. However, other reports from Nepal and India suggest around 115 people have died. Over 1000 are reported to have been injured.

September 23 / 2011 update (5 days after the earthquake hit this beautiful Himalayan area)

The information below has been compiled from various local sources.

* Based on our own data, which we have been building up from the beginning with confirmed reports from various agencies, the death toll stands at 115 (lower number). Based on the devastation of the area and the people still missing, the death toll will certainly increase further the coming days.


* The Army on Thursday recovered 10 bodies from tunnels in the Teesta Stage III hydro-electric project in north Sikkim, the worst-affected district, taking the number of those killed at the project site to 27. The number of casualties in Sikkim has now increased to 79. Yesterday the company reported that no other bodies were found in the tunnels and that all employees were accounted for (including 17 fatalities from their workforce), but the present information contradicts this earlier information. We are of course not sure whether it could be 10 non-project people which have been found by the army. Confusing reports as the project company did not published a new report on Friday.

* The earthquake ripped apart the landscape in the stretch between Gangtok and Chungthang, causing cracks, landslides and much destruction. Around 80 per cent of the houses at Chungthang have suffered damages with all sorts of cracksPower has been restored in Gangtok and officials say other towns will have full power supply within the next few days. National Highway 55, which connects Bagdogra to Darjeeling and National Highway 31, that links Gangtok to Bagdogra, have been repaired. Rescue workers were able to clear the landslides both from Bagdogra to Gangtok and Gangtok to Mangan by Tuesday evening. In the process, though, two Army people were killed. Over 15,000 houses collapsed.

* While flying over Dzonghu and Lachen in a helicopter, there was no sign of life in the region. Army rescue troops carrying food packets for villagers in two helicopters found only damaged houses, flooded farms, boulders and buried roads but no people in various places, including Lachung and Sakyong. From the helicopter, boulders strewn across farmlands, roads now under mud which had come cascading down slopes to dislodge at least five villages in the Lepcha-dominated area, could be seen.

* 2 Norwegian tourists were rescued from Lachung. Several others were evacuated from Chungthung along with villagers. The army is taking care of 552 quake-hit residents of Chungthang village including staff of the Teesta hydroelectric project where Sunday's strong temblor left 17 of its 28 employees dead (read also above).

Fri Sep 23 2011, 13:39 hrs (local time) Soldiers have reached the last villages cut off by landslides from the earthquake. The first soldiers were airlifted into the nine villages on Thursday carrying food and medicine for the nearly 1,000 residents. More soldiers were able to make their way into the villages by ground after hiking along mountainous paths.

* There is no trace of 120 residents of Bay village in North Sikkim, located between Lachung and Chungthang. No trace as yet of 120 people living in 14 huts at Bay village as the area is totally devastated. There is a lot of debris and the residents are missing.


The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) claimed that 68 percent of India's urban population is in danger due to poorly designed buildings which are vulnerable to earthquakes. “There are 344 towns which fall in the Zone 5 category (high risk category) making them amongst the most damage prone cities in the planet,” said Shashidhar Reddy, vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority. NDMA also revealed that most of the India's buildings are not built to resist earthquakes. “Only three per cent of buildings use concrete while 85 per cent of buildings are using brick and stone with no steel reinforcements”


Relief distribution to earthquake victims in the eastern Nepali districts is continuing very slowly.

E-Kantipur Nepal writes : Teams mobilized to distribute relief among earthquake-hit families in Taplejung have run out of budget. “Even if the relief team was to spend Rs 1,000 per family hit by the disaster, we will still have insufficient budget,” said relief team member. The Natural Disaster Relief and Rescue Committee (NDRRC) had decided to spend Rs 20,000 to 25,000 per VDC.

Nepal Red Cross has run out of relief materials and has asked for additional supplies.

Around 1500 buildings have been destroyed and 2800 buildings partially damaged in Nepal alone.

Classes in more than 100 schools have come to a complete halt. The earthquake damaged 152 school buildings in Panchthar. An employee at the District Education Office (DEO) said the primary reason behind the damage of the buildings was the use of substandard construction materials. The damage assessment report suggests that the quake damaged most of the government-funded buildings.

The overall death toll from the quake may still rise with rescue efforts at an early stage in eastern Nepal, where difficult terrain and poor infrastructure has hampered access.
Armed police force and Nepal Army personnel are still working( still  today) to make the way at the Dharan Dhankuta( koshi Highway) which was damaged after the earthquake .


According to a director of Nepal Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), if a quake like the one in 1934 were to strike the Capital, around 60 percent of the buildings would suffer heavy damage. A majority of the buildings that will be destroyed will be the old un-reinforced masonary ones that lack engineering to resist the earthquakes.
More than 40,000 deaths and 95,000 injuries are expected in the Valley if a major quake is to hit, he added. : PLEASE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, Home owners should be OBLIGED by government law to improve their houses with earthquake resistant techniques within a very short term. The present quake was a weak reminder of what could come in the future.

This is the September 23 update only.
Link to the full (very long) report covering the story from moments after the earthquake until now.

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