Death toll at 81 for quake in India, Nepal, China

September 20, 2011 - 5:30 AM
India Earthquake

Members of Army's engineering wing ascend a landslide following Sunday's 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Phengla town, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Gangtok, in Sikkim, India, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Troops trying to reach survivors are pushing through landslide debris with earthmovers after the Himalayan earthquake that shook northeastern India, Nepal and China. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

GANGTOK, India (AP) — Helicopters airdropped emergency supplies Tuesday to Himalayan villages worst-hit by a quake that killed at least 81 people in India, Nepal and China, while earthmovers pushed through debris clogging precipitous valleys.

Soldiers in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim cleared a path to Mangan, one of the towns closest to the epicenter of Sunday's 6.9-magnitude quake, but many other communities remained cut off and authorities fear the death toll will rise once rescuers reach them.

Indian army helicopters ferried rescuers and dropped food and supplies to still-inaccessible villages in Sikkim, a sparsely populated and almost entirely mountainous region that was an independent protectorate before becoming an Indian state in 1975. It borders Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Chinese region of Tibet.

The quake killed at least 50 people in Sikkim, said the state's top official, Karma Gyatso.

India's Home Secretary R. K. Singh told reporters that 12 people were killed in West Bengal and six others in Bihar state. Authorities in neighboring Nepal reported six deaths, while China's official Xinhua news agency reported seven deaths in Tibet.

Army helicopters were still conducting aerial surveys of the quake zone, though local authorities already have reported extensive damage to homes and buildings across Sikkim, Gyatso said.

In Nepal, officials said six people were killed when houses collapsed near the capital Katmandu, bringing down an earlier figure of seven deaths due to the quake.

The region has been hit by major earthquakes in the past, including in 1950 and 1897.

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Associated Press writers Wasbir Hussain in Gauhati, Binaj Gurubacharya in Katmandu, Nepal, Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.