Darjeeling, Sept. 24: Rain over the past three days triggered a landslide about a kilometre and a half from the heart of the hill station this afternoon, killing eight people and highlighting once again Darjeeling’s vulnerability to man-made disasters because of ill-planned constructions.
At Kazi Gaon, many people were caught in their houses when a huge mass of loose earth, trees, boulders and mud — originating about 150 feet above — came crashing down this afternoon. Many did not manage to scamper to safety.
After almost four hours, one-year-old Karan Rai was rescued from the debris with minor injuries, but his mother Sangeeta, who was trapped in the same room, was dead.
Civil defence workers and local volunteers worked in the drizzle to pull out the survivors, but all they found were bodies.
Among those killed were one-and-a-half-year-old Nikhil Tamang and Ashish Lepcha, 14. The others were identified as Kazi Ghimraj, 40, his wife Khirod, 36, Pabitra Tamang, 22, Sunita Tamang, 26, Laila Tamang, 45, and 22-year-old Sangeeta Rai.
Rajesh Limbu is said to be missing.
With constructions mushrooming in the area, a fire brigade vehicle that came for the rescue mission could not reach the spot. Smaller ambulances, jeeps and motorcycles had be used to ferry the six injured to hospital.
Four-year-old Shreya Tamang and Vijay Ghimraj, 16, were shifted to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri.
Another landslide at Buchar Busty, about a kilometre from Motor Stand, destroyed two houses while a municipal tenement that housed about 20 families has split into two.
Darjeeling MLA Pranay Rai said: “We have accommodated five families at the Anjuman-e-Islamia school, while the rest of the people are staying with neighbours.”
The INA bypass has been blocked near West Point School as a portion of Chowrastha Road has caved in near a construction site. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway track is also covered with debris at Nimkidhara following a mudslip from yet another construction site.
Two three-storey buildings are hanging precariously near Dali Pathak and seven families have been evacuated from there.