23 Indian troops missing after Indian state hit by flash flood

Overflowing Teesta River after heavy rain in Indias Sikkim seen in this still from a video on October 4, 2023.. — Reuters
Overflowing Teesta River after heavy rain in India’s Sikkim seen in this still from a video on October 4, 2023.. — Reuters
  • Indian military says its establishments in valley remain affected.
  • Flood occurred after torrential rain in valley near China border.
  • Vehicles also submerged after water released from dam.

A cloudburst Wednesday triggered a flash flood in India’s northeastern state of Sikkim, resulting in the disappearance of 23 Indian troops, a defense spokesperson told Reuters.

The flood was a result of torrential rain which hit a valley approximately 150 km (93 miles) north of Gangtok, the state capital, situated near India’s border with China border.

The spokesperson, based in Guwahati, stated that certain military installations in the valley were impacted, and efforts were underway to ascertain more information about the situation.

“Some army establishments along the valley have been affected and efforts are on to confirm details,” said the spokesperson based in the city of Guwahati.

Rising water submerged some vehicles following the release of water from a dam, the spokesperson added.

Intermittent rain and thundershowers were hampering rescue operations in the area, an army official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The army said water released upstream from the Chungthang dam meant the river was already more than 4.5 meters (15 feet) higher than usual.

A video released by an Indian army spokesman showed a thick torrent of raging brown water sweeping down a thickly forested valley, with roads washed away and power lines ripped down.

Flash floods are common during the monsoon season, which begins in June and normally withdraws from the Indian subcontinent by the end of September. By October, the heaviest of the monsoon rains are usually over.

Experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.

Local media showed Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang holding an umbrella during a downpour and talking to officials about floods in the town of Singtam, further downstream from where the soldiers are missing.

The monsoon occurs when summer heat warms the landmass of the subcontinent, causing the air to rise and suck in cooler Indian Ocean winds, which then produce enormous volumes of rain.

But it also brings destruction every year in the form of landslides and floods.

— Additional input by Reuters and AFP

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