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Sikkim earthquake: A year on, victims continue to struggle

Sep 18, 2012 09:53 AM IST India India

Chungthang: It's been a year since a powerful earthquake rocked Sikkim wiping out many lives. CNN-IBN visited Chungthang, one of the worst-affected areas, where survivors are reminded of the trauma every day.

Chungthang looks almost frozen in time. People continue to live with gaping cracks in unsafe buildings ducking death everyday. While some like 56-year-old Paden Lepcha live cramped with their lives belongings in homes put together with borrowed tins.

"We had heard that the government would demolish the house and build a new one. Nothing has happened. We don't have money to demolish our house or build a new one," Paden Lepcha says.

Another quake victim Passangkit Lepcha says, "If an earthquake comes, it's better to die in our own house, we are compelled to stay here. We have nowhere to go."

The children of the Everest Academy study under the constant threat of boulders tumbling down from the hills. Half of the students have left the school out of fear. At Moonlight School, classes are held in what used to be a stable, often three at a time.

Passang Lhamu Scherpa, a teacher at the Moonlight School, says, "When it rains it gets muddy, children have a tough time. Earlier this was a stable, many children fell ill."

Fresh, massive landslides are washing away the roads. Tourist destinations like Lachung and Lachen often remain cut off. 28-year-old Sandhya rests her hopes on god to save her from the big chasm towering over her small shop. She says it scares her when it rains.

So what accounts for this extreme delay? The state government says it's the weather and the centre.

Karma Gyatso, Chief Secretary, Sikkim, says, "Out of the Rs 1,000 crore promised, we have got only Rs 200 crore. I think that speaks a lot."

Even though the government has provided immediate relief, the long term relief and rehabilitation plan for thousands of people who were affected continues at a slow pace on the ground, the scars of the earthquake might heal with time but the delay by the administration is a brutal reminder of what changed their lives forever.