North Bengal hit by flood, landslides kill two in Darjeeling, one drowns in Cooch Behar
Flood and landslides claimed three lives on Saturday when five districts in north Bengal, including the Darjeeling hills received heavy rainfall, compelling the state government to set up control rooms and relief camps for around 60,000 people.kolkata Updated: Aug 12, 2017 20:42 IST
Two people were killed by landslides in the Darjeeling hills and several parts of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Cooch Behar and Malda districts in the plains were flooded on Saturday following incessant rainfall in the entire north Bengal region since Friday. One person drowned when a boat capsized in Cooch Behar.
The Mahananda, Jaldhaka, Raidak and other rivers flooded their banks. Power supply in Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Siliguri was disrupted. Railway tracks and highways were inundated. Though she was in Delhi, chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked her ministers to convene an emergency meeting at the state secretariat and tell all officers posted in north Bengal not to go on leave. The meteorological department said heavy rainfall would continue till Tuesday. The government said 60,000 people were affected till Saturday.
With the bandh called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and other pro-Gorkhaland parties still continuing and internet services banned by the government, people in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong faced the worst.
NH 55, which connects Siliguri to Darjeeling, was closed after landslide damaged a portion of the highway at Sepoydhura near Kurseong. Man Kumari Rai was killed when boulders hit her house at Aaloo Bari while Norbu Tamang (78) died at Gaddi Khan on Saturday morning.
It became virtually impossible for the administration to carry out rescue and relief operations in the hills. Joyoshi Dasgupta, district magistrate of Darjeeling said, “We only have a small stock of tarpaulins. Relief department officers and staff are not being able to move because bandh supporters won’t allow cars to ply and the department’s own vehicles have run out of fuel.”
Imposed on June 19 to stop rumour mongering, the ban on internet services added to the woes of the hill people. Praful Rao, president of Save the Hills, an NGO, said, “Without internet it has become impossible to check weather updates, warn communities, receive landslide reports or interact with other NGOs and disaster management agencies.”
In Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills, landslides usually occur during the end of monsoon. This year, monsoon arrived in the first week of June and is likely to continue till the second week of September.
S Guha Thakurta, secretary of the Dooars wing of the Indian Tea Association said, “Most of the rivers are overflowing. This will affect almost all tea gardens and workers’ colonies in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts.” Roads running through tea estates were inundated and some were badly damaged, he said.