Jalpaiguri after the quake. Credit Caritas India

A strong earthquake shook areas of India, Nepal and Bangladesh on Sunday night, 18 September. The epicentre of the 6.8-magnitude quake is in Sikkim, India, an area not far from the border with Nepal.

Caritas India is in touch with religious sisters in the city of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and with a priest in Darjeeling, also in the region. They report that large cracks have developed in the buildings and a few old buildings have collapsed in Gangtok.  In Gangtok proper, they say that government institutions and businesses are open, while schools are closed. News reports say that rescue workers are pulling victims or survivors from quake-struck buildings in Gangtok.

Roads in the areas of Gangtok and Darjeeling are closed due to landslides and heavy rains, say Caritas contacts in the region. Most Catholic churches, schools and convents in the region are safe, but the Holy Cross Montessori School was badly damaged.

Caritas India is sending a representative to Sikkim to assess the situation, and a follow up assessment team will arrive in the coming days.  Based on the current knowledge, the immediate needs will be for community kitichen in North Sikkim and some sort of shelter for the people whose houses are fully damaged.