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Darjeeling landslide losses: 100,000 affected, state to send report to Delhi

DARJEELING/KOLKATA :  Nearly 100,000 people in the hills of Darjeeling have been affected by the landslides early on Wednesday last week. A total of 503 houses were destroyed fully and 1,414 houses damaged partially in the sub-divisions of Kurseong and Kalimpong. The assessment of the extent of damage to properties is still in progress but a preliminary report puts the value of loss to private properties at around Rs 9 crore and that to public property at Rs 2.48 crore. “We have formed three committees (house building grant, grievance and food) to make a final assessment of the extent of damage due to the landslide,” said Kurseong sub-divisional officer U. Swarup said. The committees will comprise the SDO for municipal areas and BDO for block along with a GTA Sabhasad and one representation from the affected villages it is learnt. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said the state government was conducting an assessment of the landslide-battered districts and the report would be sent to the Centre. "Assessment of Darjeeling landslide damage is being carried out and the same will be sent to the Centre," Mamata told reporters at the state secretariat 'Nabanna' . 

She said the Rapti Khola Bridge in Darjeeling district and a 10.1-km-long road connecting Siliguri and Mirik was likely to be opened temporarily from Sunday evening. Stating that Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) chief Bimal Gurung had called her to provide an update on the disaster, Mamata said, "Along with GTA all have to work together for the sake of the people there (in Darjeeling hills)." Two Public Health Engineering department officers had been sent for quick restoration of water supply, she added. Referring to Centre's help, she said "A lot is being said but not done." Meanwhile, with the monsoon just starting and National Highway 55 the primary link to the Hills closed due to earlier landslides, the district administration is keen to ensure that vehicular movement in the alternative Rohini route is minimal. All heavy vehicles have been directed to use the Rohini road only after 8 pm. “Rohini has become vulnerable because of the heavy traffic flow and continuous rainfall. We have asked all heavy vehicles to ply between Siliguri to Darjeeling and Kalimpong via Rohini from 7 pm to 7 am. However, heavy vehicles carrying essential commodities like LPG gas and food supplies can travel up normally,” said the Kurseong SDO. 

The NH-10, the arterial link connecting the plain of Siliguri with Sikkim and Kalimpong that was closed for more than a week was opened to traffic on Sunday evening. Huge boulders and mud had blocked NH-10 at Sethijhora 37 km from Kalimpong. Meanwhile, one more body was retrieved from Kalimpong on Sunday, with nine still missing, even as search and rescue operation continues for the seventh day. The district administration has not yet identified the body, but it is learnt that it is that of Ramesh Rai 45 from Kalimpong’s 8th mile area. Rai and his wife Kusum went missing on Wednesday morning after the 137 mm rain washed away their house and their elder son Vivek is admitted in the hospital with injuries. The rescue team has found Rai’s 10 year old son Amrit. This takes the death toll in 7 in Kalimpong sub-division. Under Kurseong sub-division in Mirik’s Limbugaon 15 bodies have been retrieved and from the municipality areas seven, from Saureni one and another one from Sukhia in Darjeeling. 

The total number of missing persons are 9 from Mirik and Kalimpong according to the administration’s record. “So far we have records of 30 dead and 10 missing from Mirik and Kalimpong. We are hearing that one body has been found in Kalimpong but we are yet to identify it,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastav on Sunday. The DM said that search and rescue was in progress in both the sub-divisions. “We will continue with the search and rescue operations for the time. In Mirik an entire mountain crashed down the slope carrying with it huge boulders and mud turned into a killer slush. It is difficult to clear that amount of debris in a short period,” said Srivastav. 

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