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Darjeeling takes stock post earthquake

Sikkim and the Darjeeling Hills took stock of the situation following the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Sikkim, Darjeeling and other parts of the country on Sunday. Amitava Banerjee reports.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2011 19:16 IST

Sikkim and the Darjeeling Hills took stock of the situation following the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Sikkim, Darjeeling and other parts of the country on Sunday.

The death toll shot up to 4 in the Darjeeling district and 49 in Sikkim.

Taking stock of the situation Saumitra Mohan, District Magistrate (DM) stated that most of the old buildings of the Hills have developed cracks, in many cases walls have also caved in, roads have sunk, while landslides have been triggered off.

There have been reports of numerous landslides on the National Highway 31A to Sikkim and National Highway 55 connecting Darjeeling Hills with the plains of Siliguri. The NH31A remained closed throught the day owing to multiple landslides.

However, the Border Road Organization (BRO) managed to open up the highway for one way traffic in the evening.

In Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, electricity was restored on Monday along with telephone and cellular phone connectivity. There were no reports of any death from the Sikkim capital Gangtok.

However, North Sikkim remained the worst effected. Death toll reached 49 in Sikkim during the filing of this copy.

Most of the Government buildings, including the Sikkim state secretariat had developed cracks.

In the Darjeeling district one Pushpa Agarwal (Female, 34) had died from debris falling on her; Bhim Tamang of Gorubathan also became a victim of the quake, along with Vinod Agarwal of Siliguri who died from head injuries; Arjun Panchkotey a clerk at the Pankhabari High School died in a landslide in Longview tea Estate in the Kurseong sub division.

There was report of an old lady dying from a cardiac attack in Darjeeling after the quake.

The Block Development Officers (BDO) kept a close tab of the situation from ground zero. Many Government offices were effected by the earthquake.

The DM’s confidential office in Darjeeling, his residence along with the old secretariat building of the Darjeeling town developed serious cracks.

The treasury building at Kalimpong has been shifted to the town hall.

Deputy magistrate Namo Sherpa had had a miraculous escape. “I was in my chamber when the earthquake occurred. I went under the table. In seconds the debris from the ceiling including bricks and wooden planks began to fall all around me. I though I would not make it however I remained unhurt under the table” stated Shepa, talking to HT.

School buildings have been the worst effected. Most of the old schools including Loreto Convent, St. Teresa’s, Mount Hermon developed major cracks in the old school building.

“Around 125 schools in the Darjeeling sub division alone has been effected” stated Binay Dewan, president, Janmukti Secondary Teacher’s Organisation (JSTO.) All hill schools remained closed on Monday.

One of the oldest landmarks of the town, Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Hall was damaged with the old building developing cracks, a wall collapsing and the main dome of the temple also being damaged.

Though the Hill towns tried to limp back to normalcy, fear and anxiety loomed large. Many shops and shopping malls downed shutters on Monday.

“After the earthquake I’m not in a mood to sell despite this being the “Dasain” (Dushera- an important festival in the Hills) marketing season” stated Tenzin, a garment shop owner.

The Darjeeling Sadar Hospital had been the epicenter of panic following the earthquake on Sunday. Soon after the earthquake, patients helped by their relatives and friends rushed down to the ground floor in a near stampede like situation.

“There was no electricity and people people were grappling with each other to rush down the five floors. There was no electricity. Some were carrying the patients on their shoulders while others carried oxygen cylinders and drips being administered to the patients. There was utter chaos” stated Tika Sharma, a resident.

Many of the patients refused to stay back and left forcefully while the remaining bedded themselves on the floor of the ground floor and the entrance. “There were 274 patients in the hospital on Sunday. The number dropped to 146 after the quake in the evening. On Monday around 128 beds remained occupied at the Darjeeling District Hospital. The hospital is complete safe, the patients should return” stated Dawa Lama, president, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Darjeeling sub divisional committee.

Lebong army cantonment area in Darjeeling developed huge cracks with local residents taking shelter in army relief camps.

First Published: Sep 19, 2011 19:14 IST