Uprooted trees block highway for 5 hours

http://www.telegraphindia.com

Kalimpong, June 30: NH31A was blocked for more than five hours today after five trees uprooted by a landslide fell on the highway near 27th Mile, about 25km from here.

Vehicles travelling between Kalimpong, Sikkim and Siliguri were caught in the traffic jam that stretched for kilometers on both lanes of the busy highway.

This is the third time in the past eight days that the road has been blocked.

Sources in the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the highway, said traffic on the road initially came to a standstill for nearly three hours from 8am and again for another two-and-a-half hours from 2.30pm.

In between, traffic was stalled for another 15 minutes.

The first tree came down a little before 8am bringing down with it an electricity pole. BRO personnel were forced to delay the clearing operation as the live wires entangled with the branches came in their way.

“We immediately got in touch with the subdivisional officer (SDO) of Kalimpong, P.T. Sherpa, and the district magistrate of Darjeeling, Rajesh Pandey. But despite their intervention, employees of the electricity department did not turn up. We then sought Pandey’s permission and removed the tree at great risks to our lives,” said a BRO worker.

The BRO personnel had a narrow escape about half-an-hour after removing the tree when a second one came crashing down right on the road. “We had to run for our lives when we saw the tree falling down,” said another worker.

The BRO personnel had a tiring day as three more trees came down almost simultaneously around 2:30pm.

“We had to cut the trees to make way for the long queue of vehicles that had reached the spot by then,” the sources added.

Among the hundreds of passengers who got caught in the traffic jam was the Kalimpong SDO, who was on his way to Siliguri to attend a meeting called by the Bengal home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti.

“I had to catch another car from the other side of the blockade to reach Siliguri,” Sherpa told The Telegraph over the phone from the trade hub.

Ordinary people, however, had a harrowing time waiting on the highway, which is the main road linking Kalimpong and Sikkim to the plains.

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