NEW DELHI: Four earthquakes jolted Nepal in quick succession with tremors reverberating through parts of north India including Delhi-NCR on Tuesday. Scientists are now exploring whether the strong earthquake that struck Nepal is responsible for the south Lhonak lake outburst, which triggered a flash flood in the Teesta river basin in Sikkim.
The disaster

  • At least 10 people were reported dead and more than 80, including 23 Indian Army soldiers missing in flash floods in Sikkim, the authorities said.
  • A cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in north Sikkim triggered a flash flood in the Teesta River basin, officials said.
  • A steel bridge, called Indreni bridge, 30 km from Gangtok was completely washed away by Teesta river water.

Double whammy

  • The flood in Sikkim started around 1.30 am on Wednesday and was made worse by the release of water from Chungthang dam, the officials said. It pushed water levels up to 15-20 feet high downstream.
  • Several towns, including Dikchu, Singtam, and Rangpo located in the Teesta basin, have also been flooded with the upsurge in the river.
  • Parts of National Highway-10, the main link between Sikkim and the rest of the country, were washed away.

The earthquake angle

  • Scientists are exploring whether the strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on Tuesday is the reason that made cloudburst a disaster.
  • The Chungthang dam, Sikkim’s biggest hydropower project, was breached. It is part of the 1,200 megawatts (MW) Teesta Stage III Hydro Electric Project.

Evidence or coincidence?

  • Satellite images released by the Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Centre sudden reduction in the area of the south Lhonak lake by over 100 hectares.
  • The NRSC satellite imagery showed that the lake was spread over approximately 162.7 hectares. Its area increased to 167.4 hectares on September 28 and drastically reduced to 60.3 hectares.
  • “Earthquake that hit Nepal might be a cause of flash floods in Sikkim. The lake was already vulnerable and was spread across 168 hectares. Its area has now reduced to 60 hectares, so about 100 hectares of the volume of water has breached the level,” a senior official at the Central Water Commission (CWC) told PTI.

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