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4 Jul 2015

Donations pour in for Darjeeling landslide victims

EOI, DARJEELING, 3 Jul 2015: Donations have started to flood in to help the victims of the landslides of Darjeeling.
One of the early donation was made by Darjeeling Land Reforms Office staff who offered Rs 1500 collectively for the victims, followed by PC Mittal group and Hyundai showroom of Siliguri who donated six cartoons of mineral water and ORS. On Thursdsay, a group of youngsters from Sukuna were seen carrying a donation drive in an open area near the railway station. Besides, many individuals have reportedly made contributions under the ‘Darjeeling Together’ campaign being steered by a Darjeeling based online media.
“It is humiliating for the people of Darjeeling hills, as even after two days of the calamity nothing has been done by the Centre and the state government. Seems like their Twitter posts speak louder than action. The ones in far-flung rural villages need assistance at the earliest but no help or support has reached them so far. Hence, we have come up with the online donation campaign. If we don’t stand for our people, then probably nobody will,” said the founder of the media.
“Hence, i request all clubs, organisations, and NGOs of the district to come forward and help in raising funds for relief work towards the landslide survivors. 

Monks at forefront of rescue efforts in Lava

EOI, KALIMPONG, 3 Jul 2015: Monks of Lava monastery in Kalimpong have formed themselves into teams, providing whatever relief they could salvage to the victims of landslides, setting an example.
The monks, themselves victims of the landslide, went as teams to remote villages of Lava to provide assistance. They joined the local people in rescuing those trapped inside fallen houses and carrying the injured on their back. With Kalimpong being far away from the area, the injured persons were brought to a small clinic run under the Lava monastery where they were given basic aid.
The monastery officials also opened its stock room to provide ration and other essentials to the villagers who had not eaten anything for the past few days.
The open courtyards of the monastery also served as a temporary emergency camp for those seeking refuge after their houses were destroyed and got nowhere to evacuate. 
“Seeing the large influx of people into the monastery trusting us with their lives, we know we have a task at hand to make sure that we live up to it,” said a monk from the monastery.

Relief operations on war-footing in Darjeeling

EOI, DARJEELING, 3 Jul 2015: Relief operations have started on a war-footing in the hills of Darjeeling, devastated by a series of landslides on Tuesday night.
In Kurseong sub-divisions the administration has established three major relief centres in Tingling and Saureni Busty though more than 20 small relief camps are also in operation. In Kalimpong however because of the scattered nature of the houses no major relief centre has been set up.
“We have established three major relief centers in Kurseong but none in Kalimpong. However, we are providing all relief materials in small centers where people are taking refuge in fear,” Darjeeling District Magistrate Anurag Srivastava said. A nine member medical team led by a doctor is visiting the relief camps in Mirik to check on the injured and the children.
The district administration has already chalked out contingency plans with the monsoon just started. “We have our contingency plan in place already for the eight blocks of Darjeeling Hills. We are also on the alert and have asked our staffs to work the extra hours to meet any
future eventualities because monsoon in the Hills have just started,” said an official not wanting to be named.
The district administration is also replenishing petrol and diesels at the various pumps in Kalimpong. “We have been informed that pumps are short on petrol and diesels as the road from NH 10 is closed. Therefore we have requisitioned for fuel from the Indian Oil
Corporation,” the official said.
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has started distributing blankets, rice, dal and baby foods among others, in the relief camps in Mirik. “We have already started distributing relief materials in Mirik and will also do so in Kalimpong,” said Anit Thapa, the GTA Sabhasad from Kurseong-Giddepahar. National Highway 55 is closed from an earlier landslide but the alternative Rohini Road to Kurseong and Darjeeling is open. However
National Highway 10, the primary link to Sikkim from Siliguri, is closed because the road at Sethi jhora is blocked but is expected to be open by Saturday the district administration has said. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) service has also been disrupted by a landslide that occurred at Merry Villa 3 km outside Darjeeling town.
The district administration on Friday sought to clear the confusion over the death toll. With 22 deaths in the Kurseong sub-division, six in Kalimpong and one in Darjeeling sub-division, Srivastava put the death-toll at 29. But with administrative records putting down 12 persons
as still missing from Mirik and Kalimpong, the toll could finally cross 40. Fourteen people have been reported injured.
“On Thursday, we received information of two bodies recovered near the Nepal side. However, the information was false. In fact, today morning an unidentified female body was recovered from Panighatta in Mirik which has put the toll to 29,” Srivastav said. The unidentified body of a woman was found in Lohagarh under the Panighatta gram panchayat in Mirik.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased in landslides.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased. Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) chief Bimal Grung had announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of those dead.

Darjeeling CPM shuffle

TT, Siliguri, July 3: Jibesh Sarkar, the Darjeeling district CPM secretary, today announced the names of new members of the party's district secretariat and district committee.
"While Radha Chhetri will be a full-time member of the new secretariat, Shankar Ghosh will be an invitee. There will be total 15 members in the secretariat," Sarkar told journalists here today.
Asok Bhattacharya, Jibesh Sarkar, Saman Pathak, Ajit Sarkar, Anil Saha, K.B.Wattar, Nurul Islam, Parimal Bhowmik, Gautam Ghosh, Jharen Roy and Chhoton Kisku have been made full time members of the district secretariat.
Dilip Singh and Mukul Sengupta would be permanent invitees in the district secretariat.
Two leaders, Dibash Choubey and S.B. Tamang, have been removed from the secretariat.
"We have also included three new leaders as permanent invitees in the 40-member district committee. They are Mehboob Alam, Ramesh Kararia and Sudip Dutta," Sarkar said.
The CPM state secretary, Surjya Kanta Mishra, was also present at the news conference. He was in Siliguri to attend a workers' meet organised by the Darjeeling district Left Front. At the news conference, Mishra handed over Rs 2 lakh to the district leaders for providing relief to the victims of landslides.
Asok Bhattacharya, the Siliguri mayor and convener of district Left Front, said he would visit the affected areas of Mirik block tomorrow and hand over the money to the needy.

Public hearing on plastic ban held in Siliguri

Mayor Asok Bhattacharya at the hearing in Siliguri
on Friday.
Picture by Kundan Yolmo
TT, Siliguri, July 3: A public hearing on plastic was organised by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board at Dinabandhu Mancha here today.
The event was held to discuss the proposed ban on storage, use and sale of plastic and processing of plastic carry bags and plastic films in Siliguri subdivision and the civic area.
"Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will visit soon with a vision to make the area clean and green. We are trying to make the town free from plastic bags. We had received an order from the National Green Tribunal on September 29 last year, instructing us to organise a public hearing. As part of the exercise, the hearing was organised today to get a view of residents and stakeholders," minister Gautam Deb said.
Mayor Asok Bhattacharya who attended the meet, said: "I have requested the residents to refrain from using plastic bags. We, on behalf of the civic body, will take all necessary steps to stop its use."
Siliguri Municipal Corporation commissioner S.W. Bhutia, who presided over the meeting, welcomed suggestions submitted by 35 people. "We will prepare a comprehensive report and send it to the state environment department through the board (PCB). We will then wait for further instructions," Bhutia said.

Disaster waiting to happen

Villagers clear a road at Limbu Gaon on Friday. Picture by Suman Tamang
TT, Calcutta, July 3: A geophysicist has said the state government failed to implement norms prescribed by an expert committee for construction of buildings in the landslide-prone Darjeeling hills.
"Darjeeling's mountain rock is quite fragile and its compactness is low. Besides, the area receives very high rainfall and its soil has extremely low water retention ability. Under these circumstances, the landslide was always waiting to happen, especially since appropriate building norms are hardly followed," said Tapas Ghatak, a geophysicist and a former urban development official with the state government.
Ghatak said though a state-level expert committee, of which he was a member, had suggested in 2000 a number of norms for setting up houses in the hill town, they mostly remained on paper. "According to norms, there should not be any construction on land where the slope is more than 30 degrees, but one even finds massive buildings on 65 degree slopes."
Building big houses on steep slopes adds to the pressure on the land and makes the area more prone to landslides.
"If one compares point to point, then Darjeeling is no less vulnerable than Uttarakhand. Darjeeling's population density is greater, rainfall is higher and it has more rivers. The only saving grace is that Darjeeling is less vulnerable to earthquakes than Uttarakhand," he explained.
Mamata Desai of the Netaji Subhas Research Institute in Calcutta, which does research work on the environment, said: "In the 1930s, the infrastructure of Darjeeling was created for an area of five square km and meant for around 20,000 to 30,000 people."
According to her, though Darjeeling town has almost doubled and population increased six folds - actually much more if tourists are considered - there has been little augmentation of the infrastructure.

Hill villagers want to relocate - Tingling toll rises to 15

Yogesh Chhetri's house at Limbu Gaon in Tingling. Picture by Suman Tamang
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Tingling, July 3: Residents of Limbu Gaon in Tingling, who had a close encounter with death as soil and boulders rolled down the hill slopes and hit their friends and families, do not want to go back to the village.
After 19 villagers were swept away by a landslide - 15 bodies have been recovered and four persons are missing - in members of the 80-odd families who had been staying in the village, want to shift to safer places.
Apart from the killer landslide, there have been at least three other major landslips and a number of minor ones in Limbu Gaon in the past couple of days.
Tika Ram Sharma, a tea garden worker, said: "We all want to shift. The monsoon has just started and the landslides have hit our village. We are living in constant fear and that will continue if we are not shifted."
At Tingling Primary School where 604 residents of Limbu Gaon and Pipli Bhoota (another village in Tingling) have been staying since the landslides, almost every one wants to relocate.
Residents of Soureni and Phuguri tea gardens nearby are also scared and they do not want to stay in their houses.
"We are lucky to be alive today. On Wednesday night, four of us from the village went to the Mirik-Siliguri road and diverted water that had entered this part of Limbu Gaon. Although there was a landslide in the area, it did not wash away the houses," said Sharma whose house is about 300m from the spot of the killer landslide.
This morning, Sharma along with Yogesh Chhetri, Diwash Sharma and Tula Ram Sharma, all from Limbu Gaon, were seen going around the area trying to divert water by making drains.
Roshan Giri, executive GTA Sabha member, visited Tingling Primary School today along with Kurseong MLA Rohit Sharma. "There is a need to set up new colonies now. Our elected GTA Sabha member, Arun Sigchi, is talking to the tea garden management (of Singbuli) about the issue. I have been told that the management has agreed to provide alternative land (for the affected people). The GTA, the state government and the Centre will work together on this issue," Giri said.
Limbu Gaon is in Singbuli tea garden.
S.K. Mantri, the garden manager, could not be contacted because of poor phone network in the area.
Yesterday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had spoken about rehabilitation during her visit. "We need to identify land first," she had said.
Today, the Darjeeling district administration closed the Mirik-Siliguri Road following a fresh landslip at Gayabari early this morning.
S.K. Das, the officer in charge of Mirik police station, said the three bodies that were recovered yesterday were identified today.
"One body was recovered from Lohagarh tea garden and the other from the Mechi river in Naxalbari area. The deceased are Devika Subedi (Sharma) and Sulak alias Deepu alias Digraj. The third body recovered from Limbu Gaon is of Subeshna Thapa," said Das.
So far, 15 bodies have been recovered from Limbu Gaon, eight from other areas of Mirik block, one from Sukhiapokhri and six from Kalimpong. Ten are missing.
Around a decade back, 40-odd families from Shanti Toll area in Gayabari tea garden, 8km downhill from Limbu Gaon, had been shifted further down a hill after a landslide.
Twenty-four people were killed in the July 8, 2003, landslip and the entire village settled in a place later named Naya Gaon, 9km from Limbu Goan.
Kamala Rai, who had lost seven family members in the slide, today said: "Cracks have developed in my house. We are waiting for repair."

बाटो बन्दले जीटीए प्रमुख कोलाखाम पुग्न सकेनन्

डी.के वाइबा, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ 3 जुलाई। मङ्गलबार राती अविरल वर्षाको कारण कालेबुङ शहरदेखि लकभग 40 किलोमिटर टाडामा अवस्थित लाभा कोलाखामको एउटै परिवारका चारजना सदस्यहरू निखोज बनेपछि उक्त क्षेत्रको भ्रमणमा निस्केका जीटीए प्रमुख बिमल गुरूङ यातायात अवरूद्ध बने पछि घटना स्थलमा पुग्न सकेनन्। उनी आज बिहान कालेबुङबाट कोलाखाम प्रस्थान गरेका थिए तर वर्षाले घटना स्थलमा पुग्ने सडक पैह्रोले जथाभावी बन्द बनेको कारण उनी घटना स्थलमा पुग्न नसकेको हो।
कोलाखाम क्षेत्रमा मङगलबार रातीको पैह्रोले एउटै परिवारका चार सदस्यहरू क्रमैले आमा भगीमाया राई (75) छोराहरू हर्कमान राई (50), तारामान राई (45) अनि नाती जेबियर्स विश्वकर्म (5) निखोज बनेका छन्। उनीहरूलाई पौह्रोले घरसँगै बगाएर लगेको छ भने स्थानीय मानिसहरूले खोजी अभियान जारी राखेको छ। गाउँलेहरूले खोजी अभियान जारी राखे पनि निखोज बनेका चारैजनाको कुनै पत्तो लाग्न सकेको छैन।
पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर अहिलेसम्म निखोज बनेको घटनाबारे मधु राईले जानकारी गराउँदै अविरल वर्षाको कारण मध्य राती लकभग एक किलोमिटर माथीबाट आएको पैह्रोले सोह्रेर घरभित्र रहेका चारैजनालाई बगाएर लगेको बताए। “मध्यराती आएको पैह्रोले घरसँगै चारैजनालाई बगाएर लग्यो।
घटनाबारे थाह पाएपछि स्थानीय गाउँलेहरूको सहयोगमा खोजी अभियान जारी राखेका छौँ। यद्यपी अझसम्म कसैको पत्तो लागेको छैन। उनीहरूलाई पैह्रोले बगाएर रेसी खोलामा पुर्‍याएको हुनसक्ने सम्भावना रहेको छ” पैह्रोमा निखोज बनेका भागीमाया राईकी भतिज मधु राईले भने।
यता क्षेत्रको स्थलगत भ्रमणमा कालेबुङबाट हिँडेका जीटीए प्रमुख बिमल गुरूङ सडक मार्ग सबै बन्द भएको कारण घटना स्थलमा पुग्न नसकेको हो। लाभा कोलाखाम क्षेत्रको घटना स्थलमा उनी पुग्न नसकेपछि लाभा क्षेत्रमा पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर ज्यान गुमाएकी डाडोमा शेर्पाको घरमा पुगेर स्थानीय मानिसहरू सँग कुराकानी गर्दै जीटीए प्रमुख गुरूङले जानकारी लिने कार्य गरे। 
पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर मृत्यु हुने डाडोमा शेर्पाको पनि सम्पूर्ण घर पैह्रोले बगाएर लगेको छ। यसबारे गुरूङले बिस्तृत जानकारी लिए पछि लाभा गुम्बाको भ्रमण गर्दै पैह्रोले पुर्‍याएको क्षतिबारे जानकारी लिए। यसपछि उनी सोझै समाबियोङ चियाबगान क्षेत्रमा पुगेर पैह्रोग्रस्त क्षेत्रहरूको भ्रमण गर्दौ जानकारी लिएका छन्। यस अघि जीटीए प्रमुख बिमल गुरूङ लाभा प्रस्थान गर्न अघि यहाँको कालेबुङ महकुमा अस्पताल पुगेर पैह्रो पिँढीतहरूसँग कुराकानी गर्दै जानकारी लिने कार्य गरे। 
उनले अस्पतालमा भर्ना भएका पैह्रो पिँढीतहरूसँग कुराकानी गर्दै पिँढीतवर्गको सहयोगका निम्ति आफूहरू पूर्णरूपले तयार रहेको आवश्वासन दिएका छन्। अर्कोतर्फ जताततै भलपैह्रोको कारण लाभा क्षेत्रमा चार दिकदेखि विद्युत सर्वराह ठप्प रहेको छ। जसको कारण स्थानीय मानिसहरूले धेरै समस्या भोग परिरहेको छ। अर्कोतर्फ यता मंगलबार रातीको पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर निखोज बनेका आँठ माइल निवासी रमेश राई (पति) अनि कुसुम राई (पत्नि) को शवलाई पनि आजसम्म उद्धार गर्न सकेको छैन। पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर निखोज बनेका दुवैलाई निरन्तर खोजी कार्य जारी राखे तापनि अझसम्म कुनै पत्तो लग्न सकेको छैन।

3 Jul 2015

लाभा कोलाखाममा उद्धार गर्न एनडीआरएफ अनि सेना उतारिने

डी.के वाइबा, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ 3 जुलाई। लाभा कोलाखाम क्षेत्रमा पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर निखोज बनेका एकै परिवारका चारजना सदस्यहरू खोज्न शनिबारदेखि एन.डी.आर.एफ दल उतारिने भएको छ। सेनासँगै घटना स्थलमा उद्धार गर्न भारतीय सेना पनि उतारिने भएको छ। यसबारे कालेबुङ खण्ड दुईका खण्ड बिकास अधिकारी देवाशिष नागले जानकारी दिएका छन्।
“कोलाखाम क्षेत्रको पैह्रोग्रस्त ठाउँमा पुग्नलाई बाटो पूर्णरूपले बन्द बनेको छ। जसको कारण उद्धार टोली घटना स्थलमा पुग्न सकिरहेको छैन। घटना स्थलमा पुग्ने सडकहरूमा एकाधिक पैह्रो झरेर बाटो बन्द रहेको छ। जसलाई सुचारू गर्न डोजरले पैह्रो सोहर्ने कार्य गरिरहेको छ। पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेका चारजनालाई अझसम्म उद्धार गर्न सकिएको छैन। जसको कारण शनिबारदेखि एनडीआरएफ अनि भारतीय सेना उतारिनेछ” खण्ड बिकास अधिकारी देवाशिष नागले भने।
उद्धार कार्यका निम्ति एनडीआरएफ दल आज नै कालेबुङ आइपुग्ने तय भए पनि बाटो बन्दको कारण उनीहरू आउनमा ढिलाई भएको खण्ड बिकास अधिकारीले बताए।
“उद्धार कार्यका निम्ति भारतीय सेना आज लाभा सार्बजनिक भवनमा तैनाथ गरिएको छ। एनडीआरएफ दल सँगै उनीहरूलाई पनि घटना स्थलमा शनिबारदेखि उतारिनेछ” देवाशिष नागले अझ भने। यसैक्रममा पैह्रोग्रस्त क्षेत्रका मानिसहरूलाई खाद्यसामाग्री वितरण गर्न सम्पूर्ण सरकारी एमआरसप डिलरहरूलाई तैनाथ राखिएको पनि उनले जानकारी दिए।
पिँढीतहरूलाई यस आपदको समयमा सहयोग गर्न विभागीय पक्षबाट हरसम्भव प्रयास गरिरहेको तिनले जानकारी गराउँदै अवरूद्ध बाटोहरूमा यातायात सुचारू गर्ने कार्यलाई पनि प्रमुखता दिएको बताएका छन्। यसैक्रममा कालेबुङ खण्ड दुई अधिनस्थ मोठ 112 वटा घरहरू पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर पूर्णरूपले क्षतिग्रस्त बनेको आधिकारिक पुष्टि भएको अनि भविष्यमा यसको संख्या बृद्धि हुनसक्ने जानकारी गराए। यता पैह्रोको चपेटमा परेर आंशिक क्षति भएको घरहरूको भने कुनै निश्चित संख्या निर्धारित नभएको बताउँदै यसबारे पछिबाट जानकारी गराउने बताएका छन्।

Darjeeling Landslides: Deeply pained, says PM; Mamata rushes to be amid the affected

ENS, Kolkata, July 2, 2015 : Both the state and central governments on Wednesday announced compensation for those affected by landslides in Darjeeling Hills even as they differed on the number of victims.
While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs 1.25 lakh to the injured, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to hand over relief worth Rs 2 lakh each to the dead and Rs 50,000 each to those hurt.
Bimal Gurung, chief of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each for the injured.
Mamata said in a Facebook post that 30 lives were lost and eight persons were missing in the disaster. “As reported till now, 30 precious lives have been lost and eight persons are missing. I have been monitoring the situation very closely since morning and providing all necessary assistance from the administration to the affected areas,” she said.
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Rescue officials recover a body on Wednesday.
(Source: Express Photos by Mikma Lepcha)
Earlier in the day, officials in the state’s Disaster Management Department had put the death toll at 38 in the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district since Tuesday night.
“Administration is working round the clock to complete all procedures to hand over bodies of the victims to their families for last rites….,” Mamata said in a post. “After cancelling tomorrow’s administrative meeting at Birbhum, I am now on my way from Murshidabad to Darjeeling, so that I can be amid the affected people at their hour of grief…,” she added.
“Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to the landslides in Darjeeling district. Condolences to the families of the deceased,” the PM tweeted.
Landslide, Darjeeling landslide, Darjeeling landslide deaths, Darjeeling landslide incidents, landslides darjeeling, landslide deaths, landslide deaths in Darjeeling, Darjeeling latest news, India latest newsMeanwhile, following directions from the PM, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju visited the district in the evening. He is expected to submit a report to the PM on Thursday.
“Despite rough and hilly region and inclement weather, rescue efforts were on. It is very sad to see such catastrophic damages. So far, 38 bodies have been recovered and efforts are on to recover the remaining missing people,” he told PTI.
Rijiju visited relief camps in Ting Ling area in Kurseong where hundreds were rendered homeless. Along with Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia and officials of Home Ministry and NDRF, Rijiju visited hospitals. Bimal Gurung, officials from the state government, NDRF and SSB also accompanied him. On Thursday, the team will visit Kalimpong.

‘Landslides may be linked to Nepal quakes’

ENS, July 3, 2015: A senior professor and a geophysicist at the Department of Geology and Geophysics at IIT-Kharagpur on Thursday said the landslides in Darjeeling hills could be related to the earthquakes that had hit Nepal in April this year.
Professor Sankar Kumar Nath said: “Landslides are natural in Darjeeling hills but the intensity and the way these have spread shows that the fissures and cracks the landmass had developed during the Nepal earthquakes might have become aggravated.”
He added that the incessant downpour in Darjeeling district has led to a “saturation limit” and the landmass on the hill slopes had given way to the gravitational force, leading to such heavy cascading of mud and slush. “Mountains rolled down the slopes, taking everything along with its huge force,” said Nath.
A bridge over river Rathi Khola near Garidhura collapsed after heavy rain lashed Darjeeling.
The road from Siliguri to Mirik remains closed following the bridge collapse.
Altogether, 340 aftershocks with magnitude of 4 or above have hit Nepal following the deadly 7.8-strong earthquake on April 25 that killed nearly 9,000 people.
Nath, an expert on earthquakes, said: “Almost every day, tremors of different intensity are being felt, which has only helped to destabilize the hills.”
IIT’s department of earth sciences had approved Rs 70 lakh to a team of scientist to study landslides in the Sikkim region and suggest steps to mitigate the same. “The findings in Sikkim will be relevant for Darjeeling region as well,” said Nath.
Simultaneously, the IIT will run a collaborative project with the Norwegian government in Sikkim and Shillong regarding slope and rock stability. “Slope terracing is a very effective step of containing landslides but sustained efforts and long term plans are needed for the purpose,” Nath said.

Fresh landslide cuts off Darjeeling-Mirik road link

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A washed away road in Dudiya area in Darjeeling. 
ENS, Darjeeling, July 3, 2015: A day after multiple landslides in three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district claimed 38 lives, besides washing away highways and damaging homes, a fresh landslide was reported at Gayabari — 56 km from Darjeeling — on Thursday. The latest landslide cut off the road link between Darjeeling and Mirik, which alone had accounted for 21 deaths in Wednesday’s landslides, an official of the state disaster management department said. The landslides in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions had caused extensive damage to NH-10 and NH-55 — cutting off vital road links to the region. Efforts were on to clear the roads to facilitate the return of the tourists to the plains.
A total of 33 bodies have been retrieved so far from underneath the debris. According to official sources, at least 10 persons were still missing in different parts of the hills affected by the landslides.
The village of Tingling in Mirik resembled a devastated site with hutments razed to the grounds and washed away by the cascading flow of heavy downpour and mud and slush.
National Disaster Response Team, civil defence personnel and local volunteers have begun rescue work in the affected areas. Teams from the Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Disaster Management Authority have also been pressed into service.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee meets landslide victims at a relief camp in
Mirik on Thursday.
On Thursday, the Army too has joined rescue and relief operations. An Army official said two task forces — comprising four teams each — have been deployed in North Bengal since Wednesday evening.
“Each team comprises nearly 60 soldiers, including medics, engineers and signallers… The teams have been deployed in Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Darjeeling districts. The teams are carrying flood relief stores, including boats and life jackets,” he added.
Officials in Darjeeling district said the rescue and relief operations were seriously impeded as road links at many places have snapped. The NDRF team, which has reached Siliguri, could not approach the hill settlements as the roads were cut off at many places. They tried to make it on foot, but carrying earth moving implements was difficult.
For the time being, rescue teams were largely looking for survivors and missing persons. Unless and until the bodies are retrieved, the victims’ families will not be able to claim compensation announced by the central and state governments and also by Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
On Thursday as well, the Darjeeling hills were lashed by intermittent heavy downpour. Darjeeling still continued to be cut off from Siliguri as landslides at Swetijhora had snapped the road link and mounds of debris had piled up blocking traffic movement.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who left for Mirik early in the morning, had to abandon her plans of visiting Tingling. The roads leading to Tingling were all washed away by rivulets, which were in spate. However, after much effort, Mamata managed to reach Mirik after taking a detour.
She later tweeted: “Visited the spot where landslide was worst. Met families of victims and those affected in the area. Handed over more cheques to families. Distributed relief and visited community centres where affected families are.”
“I started early this morning by road to reach the spot, which was affected most by landslide. A road journey of normally one hour is taking six hours because of rubble caused by landslide… Three villages have been particularly affected…,” she added.
“Three community kitchens are open. Met more people affected there. The chief secretary, home secretary, DG (Police) also visited,” Mamata added.
While the state government had announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced aid worth Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the victims and deputed Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to take stock of the situation.
A central team, headed by Rijiju, had visited the landslide-hit areas in Kurseong on Wednesday and took stock of the rescue and relief operations.

Army deployed in flood-affected north Bengal

Jayanta Gupta,TNN | Jul 2, 2015: KOLKATA: The Army has been deployed for rescue and relief operations in landslide and flood-affected parts of north Bengal. 
The catastrophe claimed several lives in the hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling and property worth several lakhs is estimated to have been destroyed. A team of 45 Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel are continuing with its efforts to rescue people who may be caught under rubble around Mirik, that was the worst affected. Due to heavy rains on Thursday, the SSB's Siliguri Frontier headquarters at Ranidanga could not get in touch with officers in charge of the team.
"The team is completely cut off. We are trying to contact the officers through their mobile phones but this has not been possible. On Wednesday, the team rushed to the Limbugaon village in Mirik, which is the worst affected. This is a hamlet of 95 houses between the Singbuli and Thingling Tea Estates. Several houses were lost. Personnel from the Mechi and Thingling BOPs along with state authorities succeeded in recovering 15 bodies on Wednesday. Locals claimed that 19 others were missing. As per last information received, the personnel are continuing to look for them under the rubble," said K M Cariappa, publicity officer, SSB, Siliguri Frontier.
Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, who is touring the area, was also caught in bad weather. According to sources, Rijiju could not fly back to Siliguri in a helicopter due to heavy rain and decided to travel by road. With most roads affected due to landslides, Rijiju's convoy was also delayed.
On Thursday, the Eastern Command announced that two task forces of the Army have been deployed in the area since Wednesday evening. Each task force comprises of four teams of 60 soldiers each. Each team has medics, engineers and signalers. The teams have been deployed at Matia Char in the Mainaguri Block, Uttar Padmavati and the Mal sub-division. The teams are carrying flood relief equipment such as boats and life-jackets.

GSI had put Tingling in high-risk zone

Subhro Niyogi,TNN | Jul 3, 2015,KOLKATA: Tingling, where at least 20 people died in Tuesday night's landslide, was marked highly susceptible in a landslide map available with the state government. The map, prepared by the Geological Survey of India, had identified all the areas in Darjeeling where landslides can occur and divided them into various zones according to vulnerability. Tingling was in the extremely vulnerable zone. 

"I am not sure if the exact location of the village that has been washed out is indicated as highly susceptible but Tingling is definitely in the high susceptibility zone marked in the 50,000 scale topo sheet," GSI superintendent geologist Saibal Ghosh, an expert in landslides, told TOI. 

Though GSI handed over the map to the government in 2006, construction has continued unabated in the past decade without consulting the document. Countless houses and hutments have come up in high-risk zones. "The map should be integrated with land use zoning regulation so that there is a minimum degree of precaution. The zoning map is a forecasting document. We have made a forecast. It is for the government to make use of it," said Ghosh. 
Geology professor Harendranath Bhattacharya, too, feels rampant urbanization has disturbed the geology of the Hills. "Construction leads to hanging slopes without support from the base. GSI's landslide map is gathering dust while people are getting killed," he said. 
He also suspects the 193 tremors that rocked the eastern Himalayas in the past three months also had a hand in the landslides that ravaged the Hills. "The recurring earthquakes loosened the bond between the rock and soil. The heavy rain since Sunday evening acted as a lubricant," Bhattacharya said. 
Prasanta Samanta of geological science department at Jadavpur University also admits to a gut feeling about the tremors preparing the ground for landslides. "When the earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, I was at Paglajhora near Kuresong and witnessed how tremors disturbed the rocks. The series of tremors could have disturbed the soil compaction and loosened rock joints. Heavy rainfall triggered the crisis," said Samanta. 
Bhattacharya feels that geologists should be stationed in Darjeeling to monitor the situation round the year. "There are resident geologists who keep vigil on Kashmir-Jammu road and keep it safe by spotting vulnerable areas and taking engineering measures like plantation, slope reduction, protection grouting, erection of retaining walls, construction of channels above the initiation zone to divert water and prevent the creation of a landslide. Bengal should similarly form a road maintenance division," said Bhattacharya. 
Ghosh isn't sure about its feasibility but believes the best watchdogs are locals who inhabit the place. "If the local administration sensitizes people and sets up an early warning mechanism, lives can be saved," he added.

Sikkim cut off, Army joins rescue effort

Rohit Khanna,TNN | Jul 3, 2015, KOLKATA: National Highway 10 — the lifeline to Sikkim — has been breached in three sections, cutting off the Himalayan state from the rest of the country. With stocks of essential supplies dwindling, rationing may be enforced in two-three days. 
At Seti Jhora, 7km from Coronation Bridge that joins Darjeeling with Jalpaiguri, a 200m stretch of the highway has vanished. The landslide has buried an excavator under a mountain of stones and mud. Another area 3km closer to the bridge is also affected. Border Roads Organization says it will take two more days to clear just one flank. Heavy equipment has been brought from Gangtok. "It will be difficult to meet the deadline if it rains heavily," said a BRO official. 
With the roads blocked, scores of tourists are stranded in Sikkim. Although, heavy-rain warnings were issued a few days back, tourists kept coming. Sikkim tourism minister Ugyen T Gyatso said some tourists are taking the Rohini route to reach Siliguri. "Some of them have availed of the helicopter services from Gangtok," he said. 
There are three routes apart from NH10 that link Gangtok with the plains — via lava, Rohini-Kurseong-Lopchu and via Pankhabari. While the route through Lava takes very long, the Rohini route has become unstable due to landslides. The only route left for supplies to reach Gangtok is via Pankhabari-Kurseong-Lopchu, which takes more than six hours in the best of times. 
Sikkim is already feeling the pinch. Fuel, food and other essentials are in short supply because the state is completely dependent on supplies hauled in by trucks from the plains. There is no airport or rail head to bail out Sikkim. Local residents are praying for a quick repair of the NH10 breaches. 
The Army has moved in to add muscle to rescue and relief in landslide-hit Darjeeling and flood-ravaged Jalpaiguri. On Thursday, Eastern Command announced that two task forces — four teams of 60 soldiers each — have been deployed since Wednesday evening at Matia Char in Mainaguri block, Uttar Padmavati and Mal subdivision. Each team has medics, engineers and signalers. 
A team of 45 Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel has been working tirelessly since Thursday morning in Mirik. Due to heavy rain on Thursday, SSB's Siliguri Frontier HQ at Ranidanga could not get in touch with the team. 
"They are completely cut off. We are trying to contact the officers on their mobile phones but this isn't possible. On Wednesday, the team had rushed to Limbugaon village in Mirik, which is the worst affected. They have recovered 15 bodies. Locals say 19 others are missing and the SB men are continuing to look for them," said K M Cariappa, publicity officer, SSB, Siliguri Frontier.

Devastation in Darjeeling

EOI, PTI, DARJEELING, 2 Jul 2015: Rescue operations are in full swing in the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district where multiple landslides on Wednesday claimed 38 lives, washed away highways and damaged homes.
A fresh landslide occurred at Gayabari, 56 km from Darjeeling, cutting off road link between Darjeeling and Mirik, which alone had accounted for 21 deaths in Wednesday's landslides, an official of West Bengal's Disaster Management Department said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited areas in Mirik which were worst affected by landslides, met families of the victims and distributed relief and cheques.
Mamata reached the affected area taking a detour as the road was damaged by landslides.
"Visited the spot where landslide was worst. Met families of victims and those affected in the area. Handed over more cheques to families. Distributed relief and visited community centres where affected families are," Mamata said in a statement. "The 3 community kitchens are open. Met more people affected there. The Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, DG Police also visited," she said.
The Chief Minister had on Wednesday rushed to Siliguri from Murshidabad and announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased in landslides.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and deputed Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to rush to the area.
A Central team, headed by Rijiju, had visited the landslide-hit areas in Kurseong on Wednesday and took stock of the rescue and relief operations.
Rijiju, who arrived in Kurseong on Wednesday following a directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visited relief camps in Tingling area under Kurseong sub-division where hundreds of people were rendered homeless after the disaster.
"Despite rough and hilly region and inclement weather, rescue efforts were on. It is very sad to see such catastrophic damages. So far, 38 bodies have been recovered and efforts are on to recover the remaining missing people. "We will give assistance for immediate relief and also provide help for reconstruction," he told PTI on Wednesday night.
Rijiju, along with Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia and officials of Home Ministry and NDRF, visited hospitals and met hundreds of injured people.
Immediate reliefs are being provided to all needy people, he said.
Bimal Gurung, Gorkhaland Council Chief, state government officials along with NDRF and SSB officials were accompanying the Minister.
On Thursday, the team visited Kalimpong areas.
"All efforts are being made for rescue and relief operation by combine efforts of the state and Central governments," he said.
National Disaster Response Team, Civil Defence personnel and local volunteers carried rescue work in the affected areas.
Rescue teams from the Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Disaster Management Authority have also been pressed into service.
The landslides in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions had caused extensive damage to NH-10 and NH-55, cutting off vital road links to the region.
Efforts were on to clear the roads to facilitate the return of the tourists to the plains.
An Army official said two task forces have been deployed in north Bengal since Wednesday evening comprising four teams each. Each composite team comprises nearly 60 soldiers including medics, engineers and signallers, he said. The teams are deployed in Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Darjeeling districts. The teams are carrying flood relief stores including boats and life jackets, the official said. 

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