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Landslides kill 6 in hills – Darjeeling cut off for nine hours

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 17, 2009

The remains of the Bhujel residence in Kurseong’s Gauri Shankar Tea Estate.

The remains of the Bhujel residence in Kurseong’s Gauri Shankar Tea Estate.

Aug. 16: Six persons, among them two children, were killed when landslides struck the hills after a daylong downpour, cutting off Darjeeling and Kurseong from the plains for nine hours.

Although NH55 is still shut and so is Rohini Road, Pankahabri Road was cleared of debris by 3pm. All three roads were blocked from six in the morning.

Hillsides have come down at three points on NH55, the national highway that connects Darjeeling and Kurseong to Siliguri. On Pankhabari Road, the mudslip had occurred at Sath Ghumti.

The subdivisional officer of Kurseong, Dibendu Das, said: “The blockade at Pagla Jhora on NH55 is severe while mudslips have blocked Rohini Road at different areas. Debris had come down at Sath Ghumti on Pankhabari Road. Our men are trying to clear the roads at the earliest.”

The toy train service has also been hit. Subrata Nath, the director of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, said the tracks had been destroyed at different points between Kurseong and Siliguri. “At some places in between Kurseong and Sonada too the tracks have been damaged. However, the ‘joy rides’ are functioning as usual from Darjeeling to Ghoom and service will be normal from Darjeeling to Sonada,” he said.

Three persons from a family were killed in Kurseong’s Gauri Shankar Tea Estate. Sachin Bhujel, 32, his wife Pratima, 30, and their daughter Urbashi, 9, were buried alive. In the same garden, but 1.5km away at Lower Sirubari, Kala Sherpa, 40, could not flee his house in time. His family members, however, escaped. Jay Kumar Rai (26) was buried under his house at Phagutar near Mahanadi, 12km from Kurseong.

Padam Thami, a resident of Gauri Shankar garden, said the landslide struck around 1.30am today. “The hillside came tumbling down when the Bhujels were sleeping in their house. The hills came down so fast that neither of the three could escape,” said Thami. Two cows owned by Bhujel were also buried in the debris.

Neighbours helped personnel from the Kurseong fire station to dig out the bodies around 4.30am. Bhujel’s main house located a few yards away from where he lived had also been buried under the debris. His father Prasad Bhujel who lived there managed to escape along with his wife.

Kala’s father Cheday Sherpa said the family had heard the hills coming down around 2.30am.

“As soon as we heard the rumbling, all six of us managed to escape through the windows but Kala could not,” said Sherpa.

The Kurseong SDO said all the bodies have been recovered. “According to government rules the family of the dead persons will get compensation.”

In Katare village, about 80km from Kalimpong, a landslide brought down the house of Nima Tshering Lepcha at 9.30 last night, burying alive three-year-old Samuel. Nima’s two other children had a narrow escape.

Minor landslips were reported from across the Kalimpong subdivision. Chunnabatti village, near Bagrakote in the Dooars, was flooded when the waters of Gefh Khola breached an embankment. “About 25 families have been affected. Fire brigade personnel and the employees of the irrigation department have been engaged in repairing the embankment,” said Amyas Tshering, the subdivisional officer of Kalimpong.



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