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38 killed in Darjeeling landslides, Army deployed, Rijiju, Mamata to visit

DARJEELING : Heavy rains wreaked havoc in north Bengal since Tuesday night as at leat 38 people were killed in the hills of Darjeeling under a series of landslides and Jalpaiguri reeled under flood. The army was deployed in Jalpaiguri on Wednesday evening. The landslides in 25 places in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions also caused extensive damage to NH-10 and NH-55, cutting off road link to the area. NH 10 bore the brunt with the road link to Kalimpong, Lava, Lolegaon and Garubathan snapped. NH 55 connecting Siliguri, Matigara with Darjeeling was also damaged mostly in Mirik and Rohini areas. A bridge on NH 55 was washed away at Nimbujhora, the officials said. A large number of the casualties was reported from Mirik’s Tingling TE, where 24 people are confirmed dead, Of them, presumably, three are from Limbu gaon, four from Groundgaon and one from Toklang gaon. The remaining 16 were buried in the mud and debris that hurtled down the hillside. In Kalimpong, seven persons were declared dead, while only five bodies had been recovered till the reports came in. 

The dead have been identified as Jaiprakash Rai (60) from Algarah, couple Sanjoy Gazmer and Priya Sarki from Saheed Park in 11th Mile, and Amrit Rai (10) from 7th Mile, whose parents Ramesh and Kusum are reported to be missing. One person was also killed at Kolbang near Gorubathan on way to popular honeymoon spots Lava and Lolegaon. At Jaldhaka near Darjeeling, seven persons are reportedly missing after being washed away in the mudslide. The SSB and state police have begun the rescue operations at Mirik, Kalimpong and Sukhiapokhri areas of Darjeeling, after GTA supremo Bimal Gurung and other officials visited the affected sites to take stock of the situation. But progress is slow as the mudslides have washed away most roads, slowing down progress and hampering transport of heavy earth-moving equipment. The disruption of roads has also left several hundred off-season tourists stranded in the region, to whom the North Bengal Development Department Minister Goutam Deb have assured all possible assistance. The Rakti Bridge connecting Mirik with Siliguri, and NH 10 connecting Sikkim to the rest of the district, has been swept away by the floods, following which Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava asked army help to restore road connectivity. 

The regional Met department sounded a note of warning, issuing an alert of heavy rainfall for the next five days in Darjeeling and other parts of north Bengal. "Continuous heavy rainfall causes mudslide. We have therefore issued an alert to the Darjeeling district administration," said the regional meteorogical centre director GC Debnath A flood like situation is rapidly developing in Jalpaiguri. One person was killed and three others went missing at Domohoni near Jalpaiguri while attempting to gather logs floating down the Teesta river. Houses in Dhupguri and Biren busty located along the river bank are reported to be destroyed. With the water level breaching the danger level, the administration has begun evacuating people from other habitations along the river. “Army has deployed two task forces comprising eight teams in Jalpaiguri District today. First task force comprising of four teams and 57 personals deployed at Matiachor and Uttar Padmavati of Matichor Block of Jalpaiguri District. Second task force comprising four teams and 60 personal deployed at village Basusova of Chapadanga in Mal Bazar Sub Division of Jalpaiguri district.” an army communiqué said. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju is visiting Darjeeling to assess the ground situation following a directive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Two NDRF teams, comprising around 100 personnel, have also been dispatched for rescue operations. "PM has asked me to visit the affected areas to take stock of the severe disaster caused by heavy rainfall in Darjeeling areas of West Bengal. The situation is grim due to many death cases reported. "(I) Will assess the ground situation and maximum support will be provided. Our ground rescue forces are already doing operation. I'm departing with official team at 5 pm," Rijiju told PTI. Rijiju will take stock of the situation and steps taken for rescue and relief operations. He is expected to give a report to the Prime Minister on his return on Thursday. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh telephoned West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and assured her of Central assistance in relief and rescue operations, Prime Minister Modi announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased. The Bengal Chief Minister through a tweet indicated that she was heading for Darjeeling to visit the land slide affected area and review the rescue operations. 

The CM who is currently in Murshidabad for a meeting posted a tweet in the afternoon reading “I am monitoring the situation closely and will rush there after meet in Murshidabad.” Over four hours later, Mamata posted another tweet reading “Life is too precious. However to help the families of those who died in landslide, we are giving Rs 4 lakh compensation.” During the visit, the CM will meet the affected people and take stock of the situation arising out of the landslide in the Darjeeling district, said an official source. Mamata will review the rescue operations launched by the district administration with the help of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other agencies. She is also expected to hold a meeting with local authorities, he added. 

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