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Rains wreak havoc in Hills, plains

“The civic body has readied four pumps to drain out water in case of requirement. We have alerted the borough officers and asked them to keep monitoring the situation. The control room has been activated and we are monitoring the entire situation”

Statesman News Service | Darjeeling |

Incessant rainfall in some districts of north Bengal has thrown normal life out of gear, while it has triggered landslides that damaged houses and snapped road links at a few places in the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong.

One person also died in Kalimpong in a rain-related accident. The day-long torrential downpour crippled normal life in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts today, even as Met officials warned of a heavy spell of rainfall in the next 24 hours too.

Kailash Barman of Kalimpong died when the vehicle he was driving fell down a cliff at 3rd Mile between Algarah and Lava in Kalimpong. Police said that the accident occurred when a tree fell due to a landslide, which hit the vehicle. They said that there were two more occupants, one doctor and his daughter, in the vehicle, who are safe and had been sent to a hospital in Gorubathan.

The doctor belonged to Odlabari and was returning from Pedong, it is learnt. In Kalimpong Municipality, landslides occurred in Ward No 4, 15, 18 and 21, where some houses, footpaths and guard wall have been damaged.

Given the rise in the water level in the Teesta, police have started making loudspeaker announcements in areas near the rivers and are asking people to remain alert, even as vulnerable households are being shifted to nearby community halls.

National Highway-10, the main route to Sikkim and Kalimpong was open till around 3.00 in the afternoon despite heavy rains, but due to a landslide at 29th Mile, traffic had been stopped to clear the road stretch. With the Ghorkhay bridge also damaged, connectivity between Lingsey, Lingseykha Pedong and Kalimpong has been blocked.

Similarly in Darjeeling, landslides occurred Near Barahatta Gram Panchayat office in Rimbick, with the Rammam Road blocked there. Small landslips also occurred on the Bijanbari power house road, near the Darjeeling railway station, and some tea gardens.

BGPM issues helpline numbers. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha today held a meeting and decided to form a Disaster Management Committee to tackle any untoward incident that may occur due to the rainfall. The party led by Anit Thapa has also issued helpline numbers for the public to contact–9832066111, 9679156321, 9832065242, 9679813370.

According to BGPM spokesperson Durga Kharel, the party also has a social responsibility to fulfil. SMC on alert. The Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) has readied four water pumping machines to address the waterlogging problem in the town, it is learnt.

According to figures obtained from the irrigation and waterways department, Siliguri received 62 mm of rainfall in the past 24 hours. The rainy day, on the other hand, largely affected the Lakshmi Puja market.

According to the Darjeeling District Magistrate, S Ponnambalam, a landslide occurred at Goke on Single Bazaar Road in Darjeeling and while an iron bridge at Dhotrey under the Bijanbari block was damaged.

Road connectivity from Sukhia Pokhari to Maney Bhanjyang has also been affected. “The incessant rainfall triggered landslides at a few locations. Some rural roads and houses have been damaged. The restoration work has been taken up. The administration is providing relief to the affected families. There is no report of injury or loss of life so far,”

Mr Ponnambalam said, the heavy rainfall forced most residents keep themselves indoors in Siliguri, while even those who did venture put were seen wading through ankle-deep waters at some key thoroughfares.

“The civic body has readied four pumps to drain out water in case of requirement. We have alerted the borough officers and asked them to keep monitoring the situation. The control room has been activated and we are monitoring the entire situation” said SMC commissioner Sonam Wangdi Bhutia.

Flights suspended flight operations at the Bagdogra Airport were also hit. Airport officials said 18 flights were cancelled due to bad weather conditions that included the flight of Union minister of state for home affairs, Nisith Pramanik, and Union minister of state for minority affairs John Barla.

On the other hand, the water level in the Mahananda river is flowing just below the danger mark (115.975 meters). According to the reading till 7pm, it was flowing at 114.800 meters, sources said.

Tourists stranded.  Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists were stranded at different points in the Hills because of the incessant rains. “They are experiencing a bitter situation as they are in no position to move about due to landslides in the Hills. Many of them had to return to their previous locations from where they left for other destinations,” a source associated with the tourism industry said. One stranded tourist,

Ambar Mitra, the Malda district CPIM secretary, had to return to Lava in Kalimpong as authorities failed to clear a road blocked by a huge pine tree that fell on the road. “We were coming down from Lava this afternoon. Several tourists are stranded after a landslide. We were able to come down after the road was cleared. However, around 50 vehicles are stranded after a big pine tree fell on the road, around 10 km from Lava.

Though the staff of the BRO (Border Roads Organization) reached the spot, they failed to clear the road till late in the evening,” Mr Mitra said. “I am now stranded at Lake Point Resort in Lava with my family members. There is no
electricity here for the last three days,” he added.

Another tourist, Ashok Choudhury, a resident of Cooch Behar, also expressed helplessness after a road blocked by a falling tree would not be cleared.

“We were coming from Algarah. We were stuck at different points throughout the day. We are still waiting in the dark. We don’t know for how long we will have to wait here,” Mr Choudhury said over the phone from the 6th Mile area in Kalimpong.

According to the Convener of the Association for Conservation and Tourism (ACT), Raj Basu, landslides occurred in at least 11 spots. “The major landslide was at 29th Mile between Teesta Bazaar and Kalijhora (on NH-10). A group
of tourism people from Jhandi in Gorubathan has left for some areas to rescue stranded tourists,”

Mr Basu said, adding, “It is difficult to ascertain how many tourists have been stranded in different points and how many of them were rescued. Kalimpong DM (R Vimala) has instructed the disaster management team to restore the situation immediately.”