15-hr wait as landslides hit hills


Malli/Kalimpong/Darjeeling, Aug. 30: Landslides caused by heavy overnight rain claimed two lives in the hills, while the main road-link between Sikkim and the rest of country remained blocked for close to 15 hours.

A number of houses were also damaged as more than a couple of dozen landslips rocked the Kalimpong and Darjeeling subdivisions.

Sundar Chettri, 50, died after a pile of mud fell on the tinned shop he was sleeping in at Warling Golai on Upper Cart Road in Kalimpong town. Milan Tamang, 43, the wife of a police constable, was buried alive inside her house at Sundhara Goan in Dali, 4 km from Darjeeling town.

The biggest landslide occurred on NH 31A at Labarbote near Malli, 18 km from Kalimpong town, around two last night. Traffic was eventually restored around 4.45 pm today.

Around 2.30 this afternoon, the place was found filled with debris of mud and huge boulders. A long line of vehicles, mostly trucks and petrol tankers, were stranded on either side, even as officials of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the road, worked round the clock to restore traffic.

Despite pressing two heavy-duty earthmovers into service, the BRO men were struggling to clear away the rain-soaked earth and heavy boulders. “I have been stuck here since 2 am,” said the driver of a truck belonging to the Sikkim National Transport (SNT), which was at the head of the queue of vehicles.

Many commuters walked through the debris, got to the other side of the landslip and took a different vehicle to reach their destinations. Even after the road was cleared, a massive traffic jam meant many more hours of waiting.

In other minor slides that occurred in various parts of Kalimpong, two minors had a lucky escape when their house at Dungrabusty on Relli Road was buried under a mud pile.

At Gokule, a portion of a bridge on the road to Deorali was damaged by rain water, which nearly provoked residents into assaulting an assistant engineer of the DGHC special department (engineering division). Near the Malli bridge, a shop and a house were destroyed.

In Darjeeling, apart from the Dali mudslide which killed Tamang, houses were damaged at Nimkidhara, Burns Gram and Dr Zakir Hussian Busty, where the husband-wife duo of Kishan and Anita Rajjak were seriously injured.

In all, more than 15 houses were damaged in the Darjeeling subdivision, which recorded a rainfall of 113 mm till early morning.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways services were also disrupted as a huge boulder and a fallen tree blocked the tracks near Nimkidhara and Bhokshijhora in Dali. Traffic on NH 55 was also disrupted till 8 am in the morning.

The approach road to the office of the Darjeeling police chief has been washed away while traffic along the Darjeeling-Mirik road was disrupted till 11 am due to a mudslip near Sukhiapokhri.

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