Death toll climbs past 100 in Himalayan earthquake

September 22, 2011

A pastor's wife was killed and churches and schools destroyed in the Sept. 18 earthquake that killed more than 100 people in several countries in the Himalaya mountains north of India.

Among the six dozen dead in the Indian state of Sikkim was 28-year-old Nirmala Tamang, wife of a pastor of the Believers Church. "The young woman died when the church wall collapsed on her," the Rev. B. Rokken, coordinator of the Believers Church, told ENInews from the shattered capital of Gangtok.

The 6.9-magnitude quake hit mountainous, remote regions of Bhutan, Tibet, India and Nepal and the death toll on Sept. 22 was reported to be as high as 120.

"In terms of casualties, the outside world will say it is not a big earthquake. But when you see the devastation around, one wonders how lucky the people were," the Rev. Roshan Thapa, treasurer of the Eastern Himalaya diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), told ENInews on Sept. 22 from Darjeeling, India, just south of Sikkim.

"The historic Macfarlane church and its famous bell tower has come down in Kalimpong. Several schools and churches along with hundreds of houses have been damaged even here in Darjeeling while the devastation has been the worst in Sikkim," said Thapa.

Roman Catholic bishop Stephen Lepcha, of the Darjeeling diocese, told ENInews the landslides and clogged roads are preventing even the army from reaching trapped victims.

Army relief workers had to be airdropped to inaccessible areas and the injured airlifted as roads had gone down in widespread landslides. Lepcha also mourned the death of two army personnel who were trying to rescue trapped people on Sept. 20 "This shows how risky it is to carry out even relief work," he said.