Seven landslides cut off Sikkim link – Woman disappears in swirling flash flood

The Telegraph

Gangtok, Aug. 27: Seven landslides struck a 15km stretch of NH31A and crippled traffic on Sikkim’s only road link with the rest of the country after heavy rain lashed the Himalayan state last night. A 31-year-old woman was washed away in one of the flash floods that followed.

The landslides, four of them major ones, occurred between 32 Mile and Singtam on NH31A, the stretch littered with slush and debris that came tumbling down from the hillside late last night and early this morning.

The landslides left at least 100 vehicles coming from Siliguri stranded on the Bengal-Sikkim border at Rangpo for sometime. While some passengers tried to walk and cross the slides, others returned to Siliguri. “The vehicles — there were lots of them — were told to stay put at Singtam for the night,” said A.K. Singh, the executive engineer of Project Swastik of the Border Roads Organisation that is in charge of the highway.

The first major landslide nearest to Gangtok was at the mouth of Topakhani, a 12-metre tunnel, 23km from here.

Personnel from the Project Swastik managed to clear some of the debris, enabling light vehicles to sneak through the tunnel, but they could not proceed beyond a few kilometres because of the second major landslide near the Chisopani bridge.

The other two major slides were near the Government Fruit Preservation Factory, 28km from Gangtok. The landslides here have eroded at least 30 metres of the road.

The landslide near Chisopani bridge appeared to be the most massive one, as the road remained buried under a pile of huge boulders, fallen trees and slush. BRO workers engaged in the restoration admitted that at least 48 hours would be required to clear the road.

Project Swastik chief engineer Brigadier Rajiv Sawhney said: “The major challenge to clearing the road was that the huge boulders could not be blasted because of the human settlements in the area.”

In South Sikkim, Mamta Rai, a citizen of Nepal staying at Manpari busty near Mamzing, was washed away by a flash flood last night.

“We have passed directions that the Mamzing Government Secondary School will be closed down till further notice as the institution is under threat because of landslides,” said South district collector A.K. Singh.


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