The Teesta eats away at its banks at Kalijhora as an NHPC workshed topples over. Pictures by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Siliguri, June 15: Last night’s incessant rainfall caused a landslide on National Highway 31A at Sevoke, stranding traffic on the arterial road for hours.
Down in the plains, the water level of the Teesta rose dangerously and broke through an embankment, threatening to engulf a village.
The landslip hit the sole connector to Sikkim and Kalimpong at a spot located about 17 km from Siliguri early this morning. “Traffic movement was restricted while the Border Roads Organisation got down to clear the rubble,” said Prankrishna Das, officer-in-charge, Sevoke police out post.
The debris was cleared in about four hours.
The Kalimpong to Siliguri route via Lava was also blocked for the entire day today following landslides at six places.
The heavy shower caused similar concern at Chamakdangi village, located about 25 km from Siliguri in the Dabgram-I gram panchayat, this morning as the raging waters of the Teesta rushed in.
“About 100 metres of the spar was washed away,” said Bina Subba, the pradhan of the gram panchayat. “The water suddenly gushed in and we all came out of our houses fearing a flood,” Champey Mukhia, a resident, added.
There are about 150 families (700 heads) in the village, which now appears to be out of danger.
NHPC also evacuated its workers from their makeshift quarters on the riverbed at Kalijhora. “The water current of the Teesta had increased to 2,900 cubic metres per second because of last night’s rainfall,” an NHPC official said.
Subir Sarkar, the in-charge of the weather station at North Bengal University, said it rained 28 mm in Siliguri in the past 24 hours. The sky will remain overcast with medium to heavy rainfall in the next 24 hours, he added.
“We have sent a letter to the Union transport minister for the construction of a road bridge parallel to the existing railway bridge at Sevoke to cater to the Dooars-bound traffic and ease the burden on Coronation Bridge,” said Bengal urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya. The minister added that NH 31 and Coronation Bridge cannot handle the traffic pressure they are subjected to at the moment.
With the monsoon closing in, officials of the BRO, which maintains a 55-km stretch of the NH 31A from the Sevoke railway crossing to Rangpo, are on their toes. “The road is like a war front for us during the rainy season,” said one of them.
Currently, the organisation has two earth moving equipment and one bulldozer, which is kept permanently at Likhubir, a known landslide site on NH 31A about 30 km from Siliguri.