NATURAL DISASTERS: Landslides destroy houses

NATURAL DISASTERS: Landslides destroy houses – Sikkim’s agony, NHPC’s luck or pluck ?!!

East Sikkim Map - Dickhu block top left (Google)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, July 21: Five houses were destroyed by landslides triggered by incessant rain at Zang in East Sikkim early this morning. Nobody was hurt as families living in these houses could escape just before the slides struck.

The mud slides also blocked the Singtam-Mangan road, which is an alternative route to North Sikkim Highway. The rubbles were cleared by the Border Roads Organisation for light vehicles later in the afternoon.

A.B. Karki, the subdivisional magistrate (East), said after touring Zang in Dickhu block that slush and big rocks had entered some of the houses.

“However, no one was injured as the rocks had crashed into empty rooms. Another house was partially damaged by the slides in the village,” he said. Zang is located 70km from here.

Three of the houses had been acquired by the NHPC which is operating a 510MW hydel power plant at Dickhu. The families were paid compensation and they were getting ready to leave the houses.

“The houses were taken over by the NHPC as they had developed cracks in the houses because of the work at the power plant site,” said D. Anand, the district collector of East Sikkim.

Karki said compensation would be paid to the owners of the other houses after an assessment of the damage. Cardamom plants of three villagers were damaged and 30 chickens were also killed by the slides. The affected families were shifted to safer locations by the authorities.

A road connecting Tumin to Tintek was also blocked by the landslides and work is on to restore traffic.

DOOARS: Bridges washed away, gardens gobbled – Water woes for 15000 residents – neglected infrastructure ?!!

A section of Basra bridge, which connects Kalchini to the Jaigaon-Hasimara area, and 25 houses were washed away by overflowing rivers in Jalpaiguri on Tuesday. Tea garden authorities in the rain-lashed district have requested the army to shift the workers to safer places. The Torsha, Kaljani, Basra, Pana, Rydak and Sankosh rivers, which originate in the Bhutan hills that have seen heavy rain in the past 24 hours, are overflowing. At least 15,000 people in Alipurduar have been affected by water-logging - development long neglected ?!! (Photo by Anirban Choudhury)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Kalchini, July 21: The Basra bridge that connects Kalchini block headquarters to the Jaigaon-Hasimara area was washed away last night along with 25 houses in rain-lashed Dooars where tea garden authorities have asked for army assistance to shift their workers.

This evening, another wooden bridge, part of NH31, gave away near Falakata where the Buri Torsha is in spate.

Ten huts have been washed away in Bhatpara Tea Estate and eight in Uttar Mendabari. In Nimtijhora and Radharani gardens, five and two dwellings have been lost to the water.

Another 100 houses are under threat and at least 15,000 people in Alipurduar subdivision have been affected by water-logging and overflowing rivers.

The Torsha, Kaljani, Basra, Pana, Rydak and the Sankosh originate in the Bhutan hills, where there has been heavy rainfall in the past 24 hours. All six rivers are flowing much above the danger level. Red alerts have been sounded for the Torsha, and the Kaljani that passes by Alipurduar town.

Bridge near Falakata washed away - wooden woes ?!! (Anirban Choudhury)

Around 50 metres of the Basra bridge was washed away at Hamiltanganj, 34km from here. The bridge, which has iron pillars and topped with wooden sheets, was built in 1931 and had been in a precarious condition in the absence of maintenance for years.

Students, office-goers, businessmen and garden residents from Satali, Hasimara, Dalshingpara, Malangi and Jaigaon will now have to travel an extra 30km to reach the block headquarters.

People in Mendabari close to the bridge have to trek 15km more to reach Kalchini.

Residents of Patras line in Nimtijhora Tea Garden shift their meagre belongings to safer places - salvaging what they can ?!! (Anirban Choudhury)

The Shikari bund, too, has been washed away by Pana river and Radharani tea garden is completely detached from the rest of the block. The Pana has entered the Chuapara and Bhatpara tea estates.

In Nimtijhora Tea Estate, 30 families have been shifted from the Patras line to the garden factory and local high school because of erosion. The Kaljani has gobbled up 28 acres of the garden. The Reti is flowing through Riabari and Karbala tea estates as the embankment has been damaged. The plucking in the gardens in Banarhat has been suspended.

A source in the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association said the Riabari and Karbala estates had asked for army assistance to shift their workers. “They have forwarded their plea to Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner A.K. Singh,” he said.

The Uttar Mendabari fire brigade personnel shifted at least 20 people to safer places. Avijit Narjinary, the pradhan of the Mendabari gram panchayat, said: “Around 7,000 people in our panchayat have been affected. Till now, eight houses have been washed away by the Basra river. The 250 families that have been rescued are in a flood centre now. About 500 metres of an irrigation embankment have been washed away. Several bamboo bridges over streams have been swept away.”

The Chhoto Mechia Basti and Manglabari areas in Jaigaon are flooded by the Torsha and the Jogi Khola. In Tapshikhata and Banchukamari areas of Alipurduar Block I, 2000 people have been brought to a flood centre as the embankment has been damaged and river water has flooded the villages. Country boats have been used to shift marooned people. In Goabarnagar gram panchayat of Falakata block at least 300 huts have been damaged by the waters of Mujnai and Dudua rivers.

Water has entered the Jateswar Primary Health Centre too. Anurag Srivastav, the subdivisional officer of Alipurduar, said: “In Kalchini, the situation is grave as Basra bridge has been washed away. We have deployed people for rescue operations. We assure the people that they will not have to face any crisis.”

MALDA: Riverbank repair fury on officers – the wrong culture ?!!

Villagers watch the Fulhar eroding its banks - then erupt in anger ?!! (Photo by Surajit Roy)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Malda, July 21: Two officers of the irrigation department supervising repairs on an embankment in Ratua were manhandled this morning by villagers, a few hours before police fired two rounds in the air to disperse a mob that would not allow anti-erosion work to continue.

The department has sounded a red alert on the Fulhar in Ratua block where the water level has risen considerably.

The block administration has been told to inform people in villages adjacent to the embankment to move to safer places.

Asim Chowdhury and Ramprasad Mondol, who had gone to Debipur village to supervise the embankment repair were roughed up by the residents and sent packing from the spot around 10am. “We had been reinforcing the Fulhar embankment in places like Ratua, Bhaluka, Debipur and Sujapur. But two of our officials were manhandled by the villagers. We have told the district administration that we work without police protection,” said Nirmal Kumar Barman, the executive engineer of the irrigation department’s Mahananda division.

Additional district magistrate Tarun Sinha Roy visited Debipur in the afternoon, along with Chanchol subdivisional officer Subho Mukherjee. The situation returned to normal for the time being. But around 7.30pm, a mob chased some irrigation department employees engaged for the embankment repair. “The police accompanying them fired two rounds in the air,” said district police chief Bhuban Mondal.

The former sabhapati of the Ratua I panchayat samiti, the Congress’s Fazlur Haque, alleged that the irrigation department “slept most part of the year” and did not pay heed to villagers’ pleas. “They do nothing to strengthen the embankment during the dry season. What is the use of throwing bags of sand in the gushing waters of the Fulhar? We have been crying hoarse that the embankment is in bad shape and it needs to be reinforced with boulders, but they never listen to us,” he said.

The pradhan of the Kahala gram panchayat, the Congress’ Tapas Sukul, said the embankment could be breached any moment. “The people have realised that the irrigation department’s activities are sheer waste of funds and that is why the villagers did not allow them to work today. We will not tolerate waste of money in the name of repairs,” Sukul said.

Sources in the irrigation department said Kahala and Debipur were in danger of being flooded as the embankment along these villages was in a bad shape. More than a lakh of people live in these areas.

“We have to convince the villagers that the embankment has to be saved at any cost,” said Malda district magistrate P.K. Samanta, who was in Debipur today.

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