|Rescue teams sent to Gangtok|
At least five deaths reported‚ toll likely to rise
The full extent of damage was not immediately known because the region is sparsely populated with many people living in remote areas now cut off by mudslides triggered by the quake, state police Chief Jasbir Singh told The Associated Press.
TV stations reported that buildings buckled, sidewalks cracked and two major roads collapsed in Sikkim’s state capital of Gangtok, 68 kilometres southeast of the quake’s epicenter. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police said two of its buildings had collapsed in Gangtok.
Small army columns
fanned out across the city of some 50,000 overnight to search for anyone pinned under fallen debris.
“We have sounded a high alert. Police are on the streets in Gangtok and other major towns,” he said.
Electricity and some phone service was interrupted in the area.
Power lines snapped in the West Bengal cities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which “are now in total darkness,” state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, according to Press Trust of India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to send troops to help, and summoned the National Disaster Management Authority for an emergency meeting. The air force sent five planes to help with rescue efforts. Powerful tremors were also felt in Bhutan, Bangladesh and the eastern Indian cities of Guwahati and Kolkata, as well as New Delhi.
Strong tremors were felt in Guwahati, the main city in neighbouring Assam state, some 600 km away, sending panicked residents running into the streets.
“Our apartment block was literally swaying,” said housewife Anamika Das.
In Bhutan, buildings in the capital Thimphu were also rocked. “Our wooden house is safe. Jars fell in kitchen, books fell from shelf,” Thimphu resident Aby Tharakan, a media consultant, said in a message posted on the microblogging website Twitter.