An avalanche kills seven tourists and leaves eight in critical condition in Sikkim
A snow avalanche in the Indian Himalayas has killed at least seven tourists on Tuesday and left eight more in critical condition. There are also several missing. The tragedy occurred near the Nathu La mountain pass, in the small state of Sikkim. In total, some thirty injured have been taken to hospitals in the state capital, Gangtok. Meanwhile, the rescue work continues, with the incorporation of units of soldiers with shovels.
Police estimate that between five and six vehicles, with about thirty tourists on board, were engulfed by the avalanche shortly after noon, at mile 14 of the highway that starts east of Gangtok and runs all the way to Tibet. An unknown number of people were swept off the road, half a dozen having been rescued from the bottom of the ravine.
Police have reported that among the confirmed deaths there are four men, a woman and a child. According to All India Radio, among the rescued tourists there would be a woman who spent an hour and a half under the snow. The road block caused by the avalanche also left more than eighty cars trapped for several hours, with some 350 people inside, in the vicinity of Lake Tsomgo.
It is assumed that the tourists are all Indians, who flock to Sikkim to see the summit of Kanchenjanga. The reason for the presumption is that a "protected area permit" is required to drive on the Nathu La road, only for Indians. The "restricted area permit" that foreigners must apply for to enter Sikkim is not enough for certain border areas with China like this one. It is not uncommon, therefore, that the Spanish embassy is not aware that Spanish tourists have been affected.
dispute with China
Foreigners are forbidden in this border area. The victims are Indians with a pass.
Sikkim authorities have blamed tourists for the tragedy, claiming they were only allowed to drive "up to mile 13" because of snowfall, but that some cars had ventured one and two miles further on the road. known as Jawaharlal Nehru. Some of them would have traveled with a travel agency. According to some witnesses, several of the tourists would have gotten out of the car to take photos on the edge of a waterfall or to play with the snow, up the slope, when they were surprised by the avalanche.
The Nathu La pass is on the same separation line between India and China, at an altitude of 4,300 meters. It is, in fact, one of the few points agreed between the two armies, along thousands of kilometers, to call meetings and resolve disagreements on the day-to-day of a non-consensual border.
The Himalayas, which separate rather than unite the two Asian giants, India and China, are once again in the spotlight due to the recurring skirmishes between the two armies in recent years, in the absence of a mutually recognized border. Although China has agreed to fix its border with all its neighbors over the past decades, it has failed to do so with India and Bhutan, whose international relations depend on New Delhi.
As a sign of this dispute, yesterday China published the official name of eleven place names, in Chinese and Tibetan, of the territory under Indian rule that New Delhi has called Arunachal Pradesh for fifty years and that China insists is Zangnan, Tibet from the south. It is the third series of "official" place names launched by Beijing since 2017, when the Dalai Lama visited the Himalayan state, which contains the famous Tibetan monastery of Tawang.
It should be added that the former kingdom of Sikkim was annexed by India in 1975 after a disputed referendum and is the least populous state in the country, with less than 700,000 inhabitants, mostly of Nepali origin, which is also the official language of the state.
The tragedy coincides with the official visit to New Delhi of the last of the kings of the Himalayas -after the conversion of Nepal into a Republic more than a decade ago- Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan.
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