On October 4, 2023, Sikkim, a northeastern state in India, was thrown into turmoil by an unexpected flash flood. The Lhonak Lake overflowed due to a tremendous amount of rainfall, leading to a confirmed death toll of 74 and leaving another 100 missing.
This excessive rainfall, measuring five times the typical level, wreaked havoc on infrastructure, causing roads, highways, and bridges to vanish under the water. As a result, over 3,000 tourists and 700 taxi drivers found themselves stranded with no clear way out.
Adding to the state’s woes, the Teesta River’s dam broke down, escalating the flood situation. This event brought into sharp focus the region’s infrastructural vulnerabilities in the face of nature’s extremes.
In response, state officials moved quickly, establishing 26 relief camps to shelter the more than 22,000 residents displaced by the floods. Meanwhile, rescue efforts have seen 2,400 people brought to safety. The flood’s reach did not discriminate, affecting even the Indian military, with one soldier rescued and 22 still missing.
Warnings about the potential flooding risks of Lhonak Glacier Lake had been raised in a 2019 report. This tragic incident highlights the pressing issue of climate change and the unpredictable challenges it poses.