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Landslide closes NH-10; PWD mulls slicing hill to make way

According to officials, there were around seven places where landslides had occurred along NH-10, with the last one at Setijhora,

Statesman News Service | Darjeeling |

National Highway-10, the arterial road that connects Sikkim and Kalimpong to Siliguri, is most likely to remain closed for two days.

Even as the several landslides triggered by heavy rainfall along the route were cleared by 8:30 last night and road opened for one-way traffic, another landslide occurred at Birik Dara near Rambhi soon after that, it is learnt.

According to officials, there were around seven places where landslides had occurred along NH-10, with the last one at Setijhora, which was cleared around 8:30 pm yesterday. Following this, around 15 to 20 metres of the road stretch caved in at Birik Dara, it is learnt.

PWD highway officials maintained that they were trying to cut a side of the hill so that it can be opened for traffic, and that the process could take around two days’ time. Presently, vehicles from Sikkim and Kalimpong to Siliguri and vice versa are being diverted via Jorebunglow in Darjeeling.

On the other hand, search for the 59-year-old security guard, Suman Thapa, who had gone missing in a landlside in Darjeeling town is still going on. Thapa was stationed near the SDO bunglow and was covered by landslide debris
there on the night of October 19. Two teams of the NDRF have also reached the spot for the search operation.

The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) president, Anit Thapa has written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, seeking relief for landslide affected victims in the Hills, while the party said Mr Thapa has plans to meet the CM over the issue during her two-day visit to north Bengal beginning 24 October.

According to sources, the CM is scheduled to hold an official meeting in Siliguri on 25 October and another one in Kurseong in the Hills the next day.

“We have formed a Disaster Management Committee of our party and have been working to provide relief to people who have been affected by the continuous rainfall these past few days. We are distributing relief materials
along with rations to those who need them. Our president has also written to the Bengal CM, asking her to look into those that have been affected,” BGPM spokesperson Durga Kharel said.

Mr Kharel added that Mr Thapa would be meeting the CM during her visit here. EHTTOA wants ‘false propaganda’ stopped The Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association (EHTTOA) has urged people to stop “false propaganda” via social media by uploading old pictures related to landslides, as, according to the association, the tourism industry had just been revived during the Puja after it suffered a setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Massive rainfall and landslides caused roadblocks at various places. Long queues of tourists were seen everywhere. We did what best we could do, including relief distribution and assisting them through helpline numbers. Thanks to the administration for taking rapid initiatives and ensuring free movement between Gangtok and Siliguri,” said EHTTOA Secretary Sandipan Ghosh.

“Along with it, we noticed a viral trend in the social media, suggesting people to avoid travels and cancel tours in our region. Photos and videos of old roadblocks are being circulated as fresh incidents. It is our earnest request to traditional and social media partners to spread positivity among future travellers,” he added.

According to him, October-November is never a “risky season” for tourists to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim. “After the lockdown, this industry has suffered the most and this sort of negative campaign could be an end game for us. We seek kind influence to motivate travelers not to get panicked and continue to come here,” Mr Ghosh said.