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26 Jul 2017

Darjeeling faces double whammy - Power and mobile phone outage grips the strike-hit hill town

Power lines snapped by an uprooted tree in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Calcutta, July 25: The entire Darjeeling town had been without power for around 20 hours as electric cables snapped and posts fell in heavy winds accompanied by rain.
The power supply was knocked out as the indefinite strike being spearheaded by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha entered its 41day today. The residents who had already been affected by the clampdown on Internet couldn't charge their cellphones because of the outage.
The electricity supply resumed in a few localities in the town this evening.
"Power cables snapped and posts fell because of a strong gale, coupled with rainfall, in several areas of the town. Five prominent feeder lines, which carry electricity to different residential areas, are down," said an official of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited in Darjeeling today.
Electricity supply had stopped in some areas of the town yesterday morning. "As the day rolled, the number of areas hit by the outage increased and by yesterday evening, almost the entire town plunged into darkness," a resident said.
People with generators and inverters could get power for a few hours. "Inverters worked for maximum 12 hours or so, after which the battery needed to be charged. On the other hand, everything is close and it is tough to arrange fuel for the generators," he said.
With the power supply down, the cellphone connectivity of several service providers has been affected.
The BSNL landlines are down and so are the cellphone services of most companies.
"This, we believe, is because mobile towers and the control room in the BSNL office have not been getting power since yesterday. Only a few service providers have the network coverage now, though its erratic. Besides, there is no option to recharge cellphones in case the batteries dry up," a youth said.
Officials of the WBSEDCL have their own problems.
"As there is no cellphone coverage, the field staff working on the site could not contact those at the sub-stations and switching centres. They have to send messengers to pass on the information and vice-versa," a source at WBSEDCL said.
Added to such problems is the inclement weather as the rainfall is continuing in the hills. Sources in the Met Office said there was a forecast of heavy rainfall (between 70mm and 110mm) in Darjeeling and other sub-Himalayan districts of north Bengal in the next 24 hours.

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