More than 2,800 tourists who got stranded at Nathu La near Indo-China border and other places in the Sikkim region following heavy snowfall on Friday were evacuated by the Army through rescue operations that were carried from Friday evening till Saturday afternoon.
The tourists, who included many elderly people and children, were provided shelter and food in army facilities. Among the tourists who were rescued, 90 people fell ill and were taken to safety in ambulances.
Brigadier J S Dhadwal, who supervised the evacuation, said, “The tourists were stranded above 13,000 ft. They were brought down to army facilities at 9,000 ft where they spent the night.”
A senior police officer in Sikkim who requested anonymity said, “This was the biggest rescue operation by the army in Sikkim in recent history. Soldiers were shifted from transit camps to make room for the tourists.”
Kapil Meena, district collector, East Sikkim, said, “We are trying to bring all tourists back to Gangtok by Saturday night. There was no more snowfall. The roads are being cleared.”
The weather was sunny in Darjeeling town and its outskirts that witnessed snowfall after a decade.
Praful Rao, a retired wing commander and president of Kalimpong-based NGO, Save the Hills, said,“Snowfall in places such as Lava, Reshab and other parts was the result of western disturbances.”
The snowfall has attracted the attention of travellers and tourists. Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator in Siliguri said, “Tourists from all over India have started calling after the snowfall. The crowds will surely swell in the coming day.”