NATURAL DISASTER: Landslide chaos on Sikkim road – Highway blocked by boulders for eight hours

NATURAL DISASTER: Landslide chaos on Sikkim road – Highway blocked by boulders for eight hours – another bandh call by nature to protest against earlier ‘blasting crimes’ against humanity ?!!

Boulder slide on NH31A - nature's way of protesting against highway capacity overload ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, June 17: Heavy rain continued to disrupt traffic in the hills with a 50-metre stretch of NH31A near Lohapul buried under mud and boulders for more than eight hours following a landslide today.

The highway that connects Sikkim with the rest of the country was cleared by Border Roads Organisation personnel at 11.30am.

“The landslide occurred at Ujalay between Kalijhora and Lohapul around three in the morning. Luckily, no vehicle was plying on the road at the time of the incident. Several vehicles were stuck at either end of the stretch and they could move uphill or downhill only in the afternoon,” said Sagar Lama, a resident of Lohapul, 35km from here.

This was the second landslide on NH31A, which also leads to Kalimpong, in the past one week. On June 11, traffic had been blocked for 48 hours following a major landslide at Hatisuray, about 2km from Coronation Bridge at Sevoke. Lohapul is just 11km from the bridge.

BRO officers said incessant rain had triggered today’s landslide. “Because of the heavy shower in the hills last night, mud carrying boulders of different shapes and sizes came crashing down on the highway. About 50 metres of the highway was damaged by the rubble. Our personnel started the repair early morning and could clear the debris in four-five hours,” said a BRO officer.

Pagla Jhora Landslide - repairwork closed due to 12 hour strike to protest lathicharge on peaceful protestors, all immobilized ?!! (Photo Save The Hills)

However, restoration on NH55 near Paglajhora is yet to begin as state public works department officials could not move to the spot because of a 12-hour strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Kurseong subdivision today.

About 20 metres of the highway linking Siliguri to Darjeeling had caved in after heavy rain yesterday.

Light vehicles are being diverted through Pankhabari- Rohini while the heavy ones are following the Mirik- Mungpoo route.

“We have sent a report to the Union surface transport ministry, seeking the immediate release of Rs 40 lakh to commence the repair. We expect the work to start by next week,” said a PWD official.

Villages inundated

Floods in Dooars - where nature is also wrecking havoc ?!!

The Jogikhola river flowing down from Chukha in Bhutan changed its course in Jaigaon 1 panchayat of Jalpaiguri district last night, inundating at least four villages and affecting more than 2,000 people.

“Water level rose in the upstream and the river shifted the course for about 200 metres on the right bank because of heavy rain in north Bengal and in Bhutan yesterday night,” said Kamal Pakhrin, the upa-pradhan of Jaigaon-I panchayat.

He said 10 huts had been swept away and 50 other houses partially damaged by the river. “Besides, crops spread over 1,000 acres of land were damaged and the total loss is more than Rs 1 crore,” said Pakhrin.

Wall buries 3 in family – Finger at faulty construction for cave-in – sad mistake that wrecked lives and could have been avoided ?!!

The bereaved Bhutia Family prayer ceremony - "Death Be Not Proud - What makes this death so senseless is that the landslide could have been wholly prevented" - Praful Rao. (Photo from Save The Hills)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Kalimpong, June 17: A 48-year-old woman and her two children died here early this morning when their house was flattened by an adjoining under-construction building’s retention wall that collapsed after heavy rain.

Sureka Bhutia and her children, Sanjay Yantem Bhutia, 16, and Dibeta Bhutia, 21 were sleeping when the wall came crashing down on the roof of the kutcha house at Gumbahatta around 4.30am. Sureka’s husband Dhendup and mother-in-law Jamuna Devi Chhetri, 86, had a lucky escape.

GLP arrive immediately and await orders to begin salvage and rescue operations - shocked and demoralized by the politics of Bengal or the devastation ?!!

Official sources said the retention wall (erected along the area where earth is dug out) located behind the house had caved in as the soil underneath had been rendered loose by the rain.

While Sureka, Sanjay and Diveta were buried under concrete, Dhendup escaped with minor injuries. Jamuna Devi, who was sleeping in another room, was unhurt.

The bodies were pulled out of the debris by fire brigade personnel with the help of local people.

GJM central committee member Bijay Sundas and Kalimpong SDO A Tshering arrive at the devastation scene on Thursday for site inspection - anything more than just tarpaulin sheets, better building codes and stricter enforcements perhaps ?!!

Bijay Sundas, a neighbour of the Bhutias, alleged that the mishap was a consequence of the faulty construction of the retention wall (known as plumb wall in local parlance).

“What we have gathered is that the owner of the under-construction house built the plumb wall without consulting an engineer. Unfortunately,  this is how our people operate. They rely on the advice of masons without adhering to the rules of the municipality,” he added.

Neighbours said Dhendup is Sureka’s second husband. “Her first husband had died in an accident. Sureka’s former mother-in-law used to live with her even after her second marriage. Dhendup does odd jobs to sustain the family,” said a neighbour.

Kalimpong subdivisional officer Amyas Tshering said tarpaulin sheets had been given to cover the area where the wall collapsed to ensure that no further cave-in took place.

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