“Thousands ” (press figures ranging between 1000-3500) of tourists were trapped between Sherethang and Changu (Tsomgo ) Lake at 3745 meters as temperatures on Friday as temperatures plummeted to minus fifteen degrees and the road was buried in snow storm conditions.
“Army personnel have begun rescue operations for the tourists, mostly south Indians, and provided them shelter, food and medicine in Army transit camps and officers’ quarters since yesterday,” an Army spokesman was quoted to say.
Saturday saw many of the tourists , dressed mostly in in light jackets and scarves , returning to a frosty Gangtok : minus 7 degrees , coldest day of the year. Others still in treatment .
(Changu Lake photo : Wikipedia , other photo Times of India)
IANS reports that Nathu La , the border pass between Sikkim and Tibet has re-opened earlier than planned , and will stay open longer :
‘Trading was earlier scheduled to begin June 1 and last until Sep 30. But the two countries agreed to demands by traders to allow business from May 1 to Nov 30,’ Sikkim Director of Industry and Commerce Saman Prasad Subba said Thursday.
India and China in July last year reopened trade across the 15,000 feet Nathu La Pass, 52 km east of Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, as part of a broader rapprochement. The move marked the first direct trade link between the neighbours since a bitter border war in 1962.
‘A total of 29 Chinese traders came to the Indian side with tradable items, while 13 people from India crossed over to China to do business in the first two days of trading,’ Subba told IANS.
Latest figures released by Tibet’s commerce department said bilateral trade in the first season through Nathu La saw business worth 1.49 million yuan ($190,000 million).
In the same period from July 6 to Sep 30 last year, Indian traders did business worth Rs.1.2 million ($26,109).
Although two-way trade was slow last year, about 900 Chinese traders crossed the border separated by a rusty barbed wire marker to the bazaar of Sherathang, five kilometre below the pass on the Indian side. About 400 Indian traders headed to the Renqinggang interim market in Tibet on the Chinese side, 16 km from the border.
The Sikkim government has also urged New Delhi to sing a pact with Beijing to allow tourists to use the border pass.
‘At present only traders are allowed to cross over and if tourism is opened it would be economically beneficial for both the countries,’ the official said.”