Tourists defy weather warnings, resulting in deadly avalanche in Northeast India

Tourists defy weather warnings, resulting in deadly avalanche in northeast India

At least seven tourists have died, 20 were injured and many others were trapped after a major avalanche struck near a mountain pass in the northeast Indian state of Sikkim at 06:00 UTC on April 4, 2023.

The incident occurred near the Nathu La mountain pass, a popular tourist destination on India’s border with China. This is the road that connects Gangtok to the Nathu La Pass and the nearby Changu Lake – another major tourist attraction.

The Indian army reported that five to six vehicles carrying up to 30 tourists were trapped under the snow following the avalanche. An additional 350 tourists and 80 vehicles were rescued after the road was cleared of snow.

Police revealed that the affected tourists did not have permission to travel beyond ‘Milestone 13’ due to inclement weather conditions. Despite the warnings, they forced tour operators and drivers to take them further and eventually to the area where the disaster occurred.

This tragedy comes six months after a similar incident in Uttarakhand that claimed the lives of 27 mountaineers. The recent event has once again raised concerns about the effectiveness of warning mechanisms and compliance with regulations and advisories by stakeholders.

Located in the Himalayas below Mount Khangchendzonga, the third-highest mountain in the world, Sikkim is known as the “Land of Mystic Splendour.” The region attracts thousands of tourists each year.

References:

1 7 tourists dead, 20 injured in Sikkim avalanche; PM Modi, Amit Shah condole deaths – The Hindustan Times – April 4, 2023

2 Sikkim avalanche – Tribune India – April 6, 2023

Featured image credit: Border Roads Organisation

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