New Delhi: Three days after the earthquake, Sikkim is still battling the aftermath. With many villages cut off, there are fears the quake horror could get worse. The death toll has now crossed 80, with 53 dead in Sikkim alone.

Relief and rescue operations have picked up speed and with the weather clearing up, authorities hope to get access to stranded areas. In fact on Tuesday, the Army was able to reach Mangan - the epicentre of the quake.

Meanwhile, electricity has been restored in Gangtok and officials say other towns will have full power supply within the next few days. However, restoration of communication lines still remains a big challenge. National Highway 55, which connects Bagdogra to Darjeeling and National Highway 31, that links Gangtok to Bagdogra, have been restored.

On the ground, relief and rescue workers have raced against time to open the arterial National Highway 31 that cut off the state since Sunday evening. By Tuesday evening rescue workers were able to clear the landslides both from Baghdograh to Gangtok and Gantok to Mangan. In the process, though, two Army jawans were killed.

Nine helicopters were mobilised and 10 doctors airlifted to Chungthang in North Sikkim. The Army has also deployed 10 medical units.

The Army says restoring communication lines beyond Mangan will be the next big challenge.

"The biggest challenge right now is to get the lines of communication through, to supply food to needy people. Road beyond mangan is very bad and it will take more than 20 days," said Lt Gen Bikram Singh.

The enormity of the damage is finally emerging, besides the loss to human lives. Over 15,000 houses were razed to the ground and more than 1 lakh were partially damaged. While the State Government is gradually restoring essential services like power and water supplies, the Government is yet to fully assess the economic damage.

Surviving the Sikkim quake

The Sikkim earthquake severed all communication links in the initial hours, causing many across the country who have family in Sikkim to fear the worst. Some have still not been able to contact their loved ones in the quake-hit areas.

In seconds, several lives lost, livelihoods destroyed and altered forever in the quake that jolted the North-East. But some like Devendra Jain were lucky though. His son and his family had left from Bhopal to Jharkhand on September 14 and were supposed to leave for Gangtok thereafter. He has now learnt through CNN-IBN that his family has been rescued and is safe. But he still hasn't been able to speak with them.

In the Motihar villlage in Bihar, 26-year-old Pankaj Singh's family is praying with all their might but have not heard from him since last afternoon.

The number of causalities has steadily risen, but even the loss to property has been immense. What's worse is that the roads to north Sikkim were blocked and bad weather and landslides slowed down help.

"All of a sudden tremors started and everything started moving. We went out and prayed to God. People started moving here and there for the safety," said a local.

The earthquake came lasted for a few seconds and went away but the ordeal for those who came under its wrath seems to have only just begun.

Locals abandon homes in fear

Fear is what greets you when you enter Sikkim. People huddled together, children sleeping under the open sky, families cramped inside cars. Sita Pradhan, 26, is still shaken, with an ailing 65-year old mother, she is on the streets with her seven-month-old baby, unable to sleep.

Pradhan said, "We are scared and we will spend the night out here."

Eight-year-old Minal did not go to school after the earthquake. She heard that some of her friends were injured in the quake. Sitting under the open sky with her six-year-old brother Ayushman, she still trembles at the thought of Sunday night.

Minal said, "Suddenly there was earthquake, my mother and I ran under the stairs. After than we went out and we have been sleeping under the open sky."

Families unable to sleep are camping outside in their cars. Saheb, 25, thinks it's better to have his dinner outside. But there are also those who don't just blame nature for their woes.

What you see in Rongpo is complete darkness - no power, no mobile connectivity. Cut off from the rest of the world are families who are spending their nights under the open sky, an experience that many of them wish they never had.

Source: IBN Live