23 Indian soldiers missing after Indian state hit by flash flood

Overflowing of the Teesta River after heavy rain in Sikkim, India, seen in this image from a video dated October 4, 2023. – Reuters
  • The Indian Army says its establishments in the valley remain affected.
  • Flooding occurred after torrential rains in a valley near the border with China.
  • Vehicles were also submerged after water was released from the dam.

A downpour on Wednesday caused flash flooding in India’s northeastern state of Sikkim, leaving 23 Indian soldiers missing, a defense spokesman said. Reuters.

The flooding was the result of torrential rains that hit a valley about 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Gangtok, the state capital, located near India’s border with China.

The spokesperson, based in Guwahati, said certain military installations in the valley were affected and efforts were on to get more information about the situation.

“Some military establishments across the valley have been affected and efforts are on to confirm the details,” the Guwahati city-based spokesperson said.

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

Intermittent rains and thundershowers were hampering rescue operations in the area, an army official said. Reutersspeaking on condition of anonymity.

The military 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 posted by an Indian army spokesman showed a thick torrent of raging brown water rushing through a densely forested valley, with washed out roads and uprooted power lines.

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

Experts say climate change is increasing in frequency and severity.

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

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

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

— Additional contributions from Reuters and AFP

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