A powerful earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude rocked Sikkim and other parts in the North East on Sunday, leaving at least six persons dead and over 50 injured besides causing extensive damage to several buildings.

Four persons were killed in Sikkim — two at Singtham, one at Dikchu in East Sikkim district and another at Mangan — as the government sought Army’s assistance in reaching help to the affected, state Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso told PTI.

One person was killed in Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal and another in Nalanda district in Bihar.

The National Disaster Relief Force in on way to Sikkim and would reach Sikkim by Monday, Mr. Gyatso said.

Many tall buildings developed cracks in Gangtok and Darjeeling and window panes shattered as people came out in large numbers in panic. The earthquake claimed one life at Singtham in East Sikkim district, while another died just outside Singtham.

The epicentre of the quake — the biggest in two decades — was located at Mangan and Sakyong areas, over 50 km from Gangtok on Sikkim—Nepal border.

Tremors were felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi.

Several buildings developed major cracks in the state as personnel of the Disaster Management were deployed, Mr. Gyatso said.

Two buildings of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) collapsed in Pegong area though there was no immediate report of any casualty, a senior official said.

Three after shocks of 5.7, 5.3 and 4.6 magnitude on the Richter Scale were felt in the region within 30 minutes of the first quake.

“Tremors were felt between 30 seconds to one minute in some parts of Sikkim, including Gangtok,” Shailesh Nayak, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said in Delhi.

Mr. Gyatso described it as “a massive earthquake. We have alerted the armed forced and the paramilitary personnel.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and offered help in all possible ways, including availability of defence forces.

The Prime Minister directed Cabinet Secretary to call an emergency meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority, PMO sources said.

IAF planes pressed into service

Five IAF aircraft have been pressed into service for relief operations in quake-hit Sikkim.

While two C-130J Hercules aircraft have been deployed from Hindon to Bagdogra airbase, two AN-32 aircraft along with another Avro aircraft have been sent for the earthquake relief operations in Sikkim, an Indian Air Force spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that helicopters, if required, could be sent from Eastern Air Command areas for the relief operations.

A government spokesman, however, said while one aircraft is pressed into service from Palam to Bagdogra and one from Kolkata to Bagdogra, along with personnel of the National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) and equipment, for the relief operations.

From Bagdogra airbase, the spokesman added, the NDRF would go by road which is being facilitated by the Border Security Force (BSF) and the West Bengal Government.

The quake which was felt for some seconds around 6:10 pm triggered panic among the people who were enjoying their Sunday evening.

NDRF teams being sent

Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force — five each from Delhi and Kolkata — are being sent to assist in the relief and rescue operations, R. K. Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Disaster Management, in the Home Ministry, said.

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