Rain blocks road repair

Aug. 30: The weather will decide how soon NH 31A can be opened to traffic, say officials of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

In the past five days, two landslides have hit the highway at Hatisuray, 26km from Siliguri, snapping the main road link to Kalimpong and Sikkim. The price of perishable items has already skyrocketed in both the places.

“We are trying hard to reopen the road, but heavy rainfall at Hatisuray and Sevoke yesterday put our workers at risk,” said a BRO official. He added that some loose boulders are still balanced precariously above the landslide zone and the rain and the subsequent mud-slips are causing some of them to crash down on the road.

The BRO is trying to clear the road by blasting some of the bigger boulders and removing the others with the help of bulldozers.

The Met office in Jalpaiguri forecasts heavy rain over the next 24 hours.

A number of heavy vehicles carrying perishable goods bound for Kalimpong and Sikkim are stranded on NH 31A. One of the two alternative routes passing through Malbazar, Lava, Algarah and Reshi closed down for two hours this morning after a portion of the road caved in between Ambiok and Phapadkheti following torrential rain overnight.

“We are now letting light vehicles pass in a single file. However, vehicles with over three tonnes of payload will have problem negotiating the affected stretch,” said a BRO official.

The third route through Ghum, Jorebunglow and Mongpu doubles the distance between Siliguri and Kalimpong.

With the supply lines cut, residents of Kalimpong and Sikkim are feeling the pinch. The price of tomato has gone up to anything between Rs 35-40 per kg, while onion and potato are selling for Rs 25-30 and Rs 20 respectively.

In Kalimpong, the hike in prices prompted subdivisional officer Shakeel Ahmed to hold a meeting with traders, civic officials, police and representatives of the food and supply department today. Ahmed urged the local traders’ association to ensure that prices do not shoot up.

All three petrol pumps in Kalimpong have run out of stocks, while the situation is getting desperate in Sikkim.

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