India flood: Army warns on stray ammunition as death toll hits 56

No fewer than 56 people have been confirmed dead in floods that hit India’s northeast as of Saturday, with the army warning munitions washed away by the deluge posed a public safety risk.

Violent torrents struck Sikkim state on Wednesday after the sudden bursting of a high-altitude glacial lake.

Climate scientists warn that similar disasters will become an increasing danger across the Himalayas as global temperatures rise and ice melts.

“So far 26 bodies have been found in Sikkim,” state relief commissioner Anilraj Rai told AFP by phone.

30 more bodies had been recovered from the Teesta river basin by search and rescue teams downstream in neighbouring West Bengal state, Jalpaiguri district police superintendent, K. Umesh Ganpat told AFP.

“The river stretches up to 86 kilometres. The search operation is continuing,” he added.

Among the dead are seven Indian army soldiers posted to Sikkim, which sits on India’s remote frontiers with Nepal and China and boasts of a sizeable military presence.

16 soldiers are among the more than 100 people still missing.

India’s Defence Ministry in a statement said the floods had washed away “firearms and explosives” from military camps.

The army has “established lookout teams all along the river” to recover loose ordnance, the ministry added.

Based on local media reports on Friday, two people had been killed and four others injured by a mortar shell that exploded while flowing through the flood waters in West Bengal.

Roads, bridges and telephone lines have been destroyed across much of the state, complicating evacuations and efforts to communicate with thousands cut off from the rest of the country.

More than 1,200 houses had been damaged by the floods, according to the latest Sikkim government bulletin.

More than 2,400 have been rescued so far, while nearly 7,000 others are taking shelter at makeshift relief camps set up at schools, government offices and guesthouses, the bulletin stated.


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