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WB conducting Darjeeling landslide damage assessment

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
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," Banerjee 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, Banerjee 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."
The Centre has so far given a grant of Rs 500 crore to Kashmir when the damage in the northernmost state in last year's flood was assessed to be Rs 45,000 crore, she said.(PTI)

पाँच दिन पछि चार घण्टाको निम्ति राजमार्ग १० खोलिएता पनि फेरी बन्द

NH 10 landslide at swetikhola
मङपु४जुलाई(केशर मोक्तान): मंगलबार देखि बन्द भएको राजमार्ग १० सिमा सकड़ संगठनले(ग्रेफ)ले लगातार रुपमा ज्यानको पर्वाह  नगरी ४८ घण्टा काम गरेर शनिबार बिहान ११.३० बजे  खोल्न सफल भएता पनि सेतीपुल नजिक माथिबाट पैह्रो झरेर चार  घण्टा नबित्दै फेरी राजमार्ग १० पुन बन्द हुन पुग्यो | यदपी चार घण्टा भित्रमा ८ सय भन्दा अधिक वाहनहरु यस राजमार्गबाट गुड्न सफल भएको जानकारी सिमा सडक संगठनका  अधिकारी वर्गले जनाएका छन | सेतीझोड़ामा बारम्बार पानी परिरहेको कारण नै माथिबाट पैह्रो झरेर राजमार्ग १० पुन बन्द हुन पुगेको जानकारी गराउदै आज रात भरि सडकलाई सफाई गर्ने कार्यलाई  जारी रखेरे भए पनि आईतबार भित्र राजमार्ग खोल्ने सक्दो प्रयास रहेको ग्रेफ अधिकारीले जनाए | शनिबार रातभर वर्षात नभएमा भोली आइतबार भित्रमा राजमार्ग १० खोल्ने सक्दो प्रयास रहेको जानकारी सिमा सडक संगठन(ग्रेफ)का अधिकारीले दिएको छ |
gref personnel at nh10
पाँच दिन पछि राजमार्ग खोलियो भनेर हतार हतार सिक्किम अनि कालेबुङका वाहनहरु सिलगडी तर्फ झरेता पनि अचानक राजमार्ग १० सेतीझोड़ामा पैह्रो झरेर बन्द भए पछि वाहनहरु रम्बी देखि मङपु तीनमाईल,खरसंग अनि रोहिणी हुदै सिलगडी तर्फ आवत जावत गरिएको देखियो | आज राजमार्ग १० खोलिन साथ ट्राफिक व्यवस्थालाई सुधार्नको निम्ति  हाईवेमा रम्बी पुलिस दलले  आफ्नो कार्यभार सम्हाल्दै सबै चालक वर्गलाई एक लस्करमा  गाडी चलाएर ट्राफिक  खुल्ला गरिदिने अपील गरिएको देखियो | अर्कोतिर लगाताररुपमा पानी परेको कारण छाताको ठाउँमा टाउकोमा कुर्सि ओडेर भए पनि  सिमा सडक संगठनका कर्मचारीले राजमार्ग खोलाउन कार्य गरेको देखियो |

State govt failed to implement norms in landslide-prone Darjeeling hills

construction of buildings in the landslide-prone Darjeeling hills
A geophysicist has said the state government failed to implement norms prescribed by an expert committee for construction of buildings in the landslide-prone Darjeeling hills.
"Darjeeling's mountain rock is quite fragile and its compactness is low. Besides, the area receives very high rainfall and its soil has extremely low water retention ability. Under these circumstances, the landslide was always waiting to happen, especially since appropriate building norms are hardly followed," said Tapas Ghatak, a geophysicist and a former urban development official with the state government.
Ghatak said though a state-level expert committee, of which he was a member, had suggested in 2000 a number of norms for setting up houses in the hill town, they mostly remained on paper. "According to norms, there should not be any construction on land where the slope is more than 30 degrees, but one even finds massive buildings on 65 degree slopes."
Building big houses on steep slopes adds to the pressure on the land and makes the area more prone to landslides.
"If one compares point to point, then Darjeeling is no less vulnerable than Uttarakhand. Darjeeling's population density is greater, rainfall is higher and it has more rivers. The only saving grace is that Darjeeling is less vulnerable to earthquakes than Uttarakhand," he explained.
Mamata Desai of the Netaji Subhas Research Institute in Calcutta, which does research work on the environment, said: "In the 1930s, the infrastructure of Darjeeling was created for an area of five square km and meant for around 20,000 to 30,000 people."
According to her, though Darjeeling town has almost doubled and population increased six folds - actually much more if tourists are considered - there has been little augmentation of the infrastructure.

The Telegraph

Limbu Gaon Tingling landslide villagers want to shift in safer places

dead body in Limbu Gaon Tingling landslides in mirik darjeeling
Residents of Limbu Gaon in Tingling, who had a close encounter with death as soil and boulders rolled down the hill slopes and hit their friends and families, do not want to go back to the village.

After 19 villagers were swept away by a landslide - 15 bodies have been recovered and four persons are missing - in members of<>the 80-odd families who had been staying in the village, want to shift to safer places.

Apart from the killer landslide, there have been at least three other major landslips and a number of minor ones in Limbu Gaon in the past couple of days.

Tika Ram Sharma, a tea garden worker, said: "We all want to shift. The monsoon has just started and the landslides have hit our village. We are living in constant fear and that will continue if we are not shifted."

At Tingling Primary School where 604 residents of Limbu Gaon and Pipli Bhoota (another village in Tingling) have been staying since the landslides, almost every one wants to relocate.

Residents of Soureni and Phuguri tea gardens nearby are also scared and they do not want to stay in their houses.

"We are lucky to be alive today. On Wednesday night, four of us from the village went to the Mirik-Siliguri road and diverted water that had entered this part of Limbu Gaon. Although there was a landslide in the area, it did not wash away the houses," said Sharma whose house is about 300m from the spot of the killer landslide.

This morning, Sharma along with Yogesh Chhetri, Diwash Sharma and Tula Ram Sharma, all from Limbu Gaon, were seen going around the area trying to divert water by making drains.

Roshan Giri, executive GTA Sabha member, visited Tingling Primary School today along with Kurseong MLA Rohit Sharma. "There is a need to set up new colonies now. Our elected GTA Sabha member, Arun Sigchi, is talking to the tea garden management (of Singbuli) about the issue. I have been told that the management has agreed to provide alternative land (for the affected people). The GTA, the state government and the Centre will work together on this issue," Giri said.

Limbu Gaon is in Singbuli tea garden.

S.K. Mantri, the garden manager, could not be contacted because of poor phone network in the area.

Yesterday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had spoken about rehabilitation during her visit. "We need to identify land first," she had said.

Today, the Darjeeling district administration closed the Mirik-Siliguri Road following a fresh landslip at Gayabari early this morning.

S.K. Das, the officer in charge of Mirik police station, said the three bodies that were recovered yesterday were identified today.

"One body was recovered from Lohagarh tea garden and the other from the Mechi river in Naxalbari area. The deceased are Devika Subedi (Sharma) and Sulak alias Deepu alias Digraj. The third body recovered from Limbu Gaon is of Subeshna Thapa," said Das.

So far, 15 bodies have been recovered from Limbu Gaon, eight from other areas of Mirik block, one from Sukhiapokhri and six from Kalimpong. Ten are missing.

Around a decade back, 40-odd families from Shanti Toll area in Gayabari tea garden, 8km downhill from Limbu Gaon, had been shifted further down a hill after a landslide.

Twenty-four people were killed in the July 8, 2003, landslip and the entire village settled in a place later named Naya Gaon, 9km from Limbu Goan.

Kamala Rai, who had lost seven family members in the slide, today said: "Cracks have developed in my house. We are waiting for repair."

The Telegraph

Relief operations for Darjeeling landslides victims

Kurseong MLA Dr. Rohit Sharma distributing relief material to tingling mirik landslides victims
Relief operations have started on a war-footing in the hills of Darjeeling, devastated by a series of landslides on Tuesday night.

In Kurseong sub-divisions the administration has established three major relief centres in Tingling and Saureni Busty though more than 20 small relief camps are also in operation. In Kalimpong however because of the scattered nature of the houses no major relief centre has been set up.
“We have established three major relief centers in Kurseong but none in Kalimpong. However, we are providing all relief materials in small centers where people are taking refuge in fear,” Darjeeling District Magistrate Anurag Srivastava said. A nine member medical team led by a doctor is visiting the relief camps in Mirik to check on the injured and the children.
The district administration has already chalked out contingency plans with the monsoon just started. “We have our contingency plan in place already for the eight blocks of Darjeeling Hills. We are also on the alert and have asked our staffs to work the extra hours to meet any
future eventualities because monsoon in the Hills have just started,” said an official not wanting to be named.
The district administration is also replenishing petrol and diesels at the various pumps in Kalimpong. “We have been informed that pumps are short on petrol and diesels as the road from NH 10 is closed. Therefore we have requisitioned for fuel from the Indian Oil
Corporation,” the official said.
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has started distributing blankets, rice, dal and baby foods among others, in the relief camps in Mirik. “We have already started distributing relief materials in Mirik and will also do so in Kalimpong,” said Anit Thapa, the GTA Sabhasad from Kurseong-Giddepahar. National Highway 55 is closed from an earlier landslide but the alternative Rohini Road to Kurseong and Darjeeling is open. However
National Highway 10, the primary link to Sikkim from Siliguri, is closed because the road at Sethi jhora is blocked but is expected to be open by Saturday the district administration has said. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) service has also been disrupted by a landslide that occurred at Merry Villa 3 km outside Darjeeling town.

The district administration on Friday sought to clear the confusion over the death toll. With 22 deaths in the Kurseong sub-division, six in Kalimpong and one in Darjeeling sub-division, Srivastava put the death-toll at 29. But with administrative records putting down 12 persons
as still missing from Mirik and Kalimpong, the toll could finally cross 40. Fourteen people have been reported injured.

“On Thursday, we received information of two bodies recovered near the Nepal side. However, the information was false. In fact, today morning an unidentified female body was recovered from Panighatta in Mirik which has put the toll to 29,” Srivastav said. The unidentified body of a woman was found in Lohagarh under the Panighatta gram panchayat in Mirik.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased in landslides.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased. Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) chief Bimal Grung had announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of those dead.

Lava monastery Monks at forefront of rescue efforts

Monks of Lava monastery in Kalimpong have formed themselves into teams, providing whatever relief they could salvage to the victims of landslides, setting an example.

The monks, themselves victims of the landslide, went as teams to remote villages of Lava to provide assistance. They joined the local people in rescuing those trapped inside fallen houses and carrying the injured on their back. With Kalimpong being far away from the area, the injured persons were brought to a small clinic run under the Lava monastery where they were given basic aid.

The monastery officials also opened its stock room to provide ration and other essentials to the villagers who had not eaten anything for the past few days.

The open courtyards of the monastery also served as a temporary emergency camp for those seeking refuge after their houses were destroyed and got nowhere to evacuate. “Seeing the large influx of people into the monastery trusting us with their lives, we know we have a task at hand to make sure that we live up to it,” said a monk from the monastery. (HS)

Donations to help Darjeeling landslides victims

Donations have started to flood in to help the victims of the landslides of Darjeeling.

One of the early donation was made by Darjeeling Land Reforms Office staff who offered Rs 1500 collectively for the victims, followed by PC Mittal group and Hyundai showroom of Siliguri who donated six cartoons of mineral water and ORS. On Thursdsay, a group of youngsters from Sukuna were seen carrying a donation drive in an open area near the railway station. Besides, many individuals have reportedly made contributions under the ‘Darjeeling Together’ campaign being steered by a Darjeeling based online media.

“It is humiliating for the people of Darjeeling hills, as even after two days of the calamity nothing has been done by the Centre and the state government. Seems like their Twitter posts speak louder than action. The ones in far-flung rural villages need assistance at the earliest but no help or support has reached them so far. Hence, we have come up with the online donation campaign. If we don’t stand for our people, then probably nobody will,” said the founder of the media.

“Hence, i request all clubs, organisations, and NGOs of the district to come forward and help in raising funds for relief work towards the landslide survivors. (HS)

Devastation in Darjeeling, Rescue operations in full swing, Mamata, Rijiju visit affected areas

Mamata Banerjee at Tingling Primary school
Rescue operations are in full swing in the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district where multiple landslides on Wednesday claimed 38 lives, washed away highways and damaged homes.
A fresh landslide occurred at Gayabari, 56 km from Darjeeling, cutting off road link between Darjeeling and Mirik, which alone had accounted for 21 deaths in Wednesday's landslides, an official of West Bengal's Disaster Management Department said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited areas in Mirik which were worst affected by landslides, met families of the victims and distributed relief and cheques.
Mamata reached the affected area taking a detour as the road was damaged by landslides.
"Visited the spot where landslide was worst. Met families of victims and those affected in the area. Handed over more cheques to families. Distributed relief and visited community centres where affected families are," Mamata said in a statement. "The 3 community kitchens are open. Met more people affected there. The Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, DG Police also visited," she said.
The Chief Minister had on Wednesday rushed to Siliguri from Murshidabad and announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased in landslides.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and deputed Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to rush to the area.
A Central team, headed by Rijiju, had visited the landslide-hit areas in Kurseong on Wednesday and took stock of the rescue and relief operations.
Rijiju, who arrived in Kurseong on Wednesday following a directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visited relief camps in Tingling area under Kurseong sub-division where hundreds of people were rendered homeless after the disaster.
"Despite rough and hilly region and inclement weather, rescue efforts were on. It is very sad to see such catastrophic damages. So far, 38 bodies have been recovered and efforts are on to recover the remaining missing people. "We will give assistance for immediate relief and also provide help for reconstruction," he told PTI on Wednesday night.
Rijiju, along with Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia and officials of Home Ministry and NDRF, visited hospitals and met hundreds of injured people.
Immediate reliefs are being provided to all needy people, he said.
Bimal Gurung, Gorkhaland Council Chief, state government officials along with NDRF and SSB officials were accompanying the Minister.
On Thursday, the team visited Kalimpong areas.
"All efforts are being made for rescue and relief operation by combine efforts of the state and Central governments," he said.
National Disaster Response Team, Civil Defence personnel and local volunteers carried rescue work in the affected areas.
Rescue teams from the Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Disaster Management Authority have also been pressed into service.
The landslides in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions had caused extensive damage to NH-10 and NH-55, cutting off vital road links to the region.
Efforts were on to clear the roads to facilitate the return of the tourists to the plains.
An Army official said two task forces have been deployed in north Bengal since Wednesday evening comprising four teams each. Each composite team comprises nearly 60 soldiers including medics, engineers and signallers, he said. The teams are deployed in Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Darjeeling districts. The teams are carrying flood relief stores including boats and life jackets, the official said. PTI

Darjeeling landslide due to poor roads said Expert

Landslide in Darjeeling
Ill-planned roads and neglect of indigenous erosion-control measures in hilly areas like in Darjeeling in West Bengal cause landslides in India, an expert said on Thursday.

Incessant rains in Darjeeling hills triggered a series of landslides that have claimed at least 30 lives. The tourist spot will continue to witness "widespread and heavy" downpour in the next 48 hours.

"Widening and constructing roads in the plains is easy but in the hills it is a challenge. In the hills, there is a need for supporting and stabilising systems to protect the exposed surface of the hills due to construction," Chandan Ghosh, professor and head, Geo Hazards division, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), told IANS.

"The harsh truth is there is a lot of haphazard construction going on without following proper guidelines and without any supporting steps post-construction," Ghosh noted.

He said water accumulation was the root cause of rock, debris and earth sliding down slopes. This is because once the hills are cut open and exposed, water gets direct entry inside and drainage becomes a problem.

"If we take care of drainage, 80 to 85 percent of landslides which we are seeing every now and then in the rainy season can be avoided. Such measures cost around 1-2 percent of the road construction process," Ghosh said.

He said countries like Japan, where around 80-85 percent of the land area was hilly, does not experience such frequent landslides.

Further, Ghosh said landslides do not happen all of a sudden.

"Locals get inkling of certain anomalies, for example, water blockage and erosion. But attention is not paid to them," he said.

Given that the Himalayas is prone to landslides, Ghosh called for more vulnerability mapping of potential landslides locations and adoption of ground modification strategies like growing Vetiver grass, which is famed for its erosion-hedging properties.

"You cut the slope, you grow this grass, it stops erosion and tackles drainage issues. More than 100 countries have taken this grass from us. I have been trying to promote the use of this grass in Darjeeling for the last five years but unfortunately it is not being done," he lamented.

Vetiver grass has been used for centuries in south India and is known to be an important tool to reduce erosion (by up to 90 percent) and reduce and conserve rainfall runoff (by as much as 70 percent).

Inside Tingling Primary School, there is only the uncertainty of the future

Children eat food at landslide relief camp opened at Tingling Primary School near Mirik
Tingling Primary School is situated on a picturesque hilltop with a lush tea garden surrounding the two-storied building. Inside the school, there is only the uncertainty of the future.
All the residents of Limbu Gaon, which was worst-affected by the Wednesday morning landslide, have taken shelter at this temporary relief camp. While the school in Singubli tea garden operates from the ground floor, there is a hall on the top floor.

Archala Thapa, who was sitting on the floor covered with only tarpaulin sheets, was worried about her five-year-old son Suhant's education.
"He used to study at Marigold School. The school was run by Subash Allay and his daughters Soney Allay (Thapa) and Sushma Allay (Thapa). All of them have died (in the landslide). I don't know where to send my son," said Archala.
Marigold is an English-medium school with classes up to IV and according to Archala, around 50 children study there.
The killer landslide not only swept away the Allay family, including his wife Bhagimaya, but also the dream of Archala, who works in the garden.
As is the practice elsewhere in the hills, most people even in villages dream of sending their kids to English- medium schools.
In another room, Maya Sharma wants to perform the last rites of her family members but in the cramped school, there is no space.
Eleven people in Maya's family - father Ram Lal Sharma, brothers Krishna Prasad Sharma and Mahesh Sharma (Subedi), and the siblings' wives and children - have died or are missing in the landslide at Limbu Gaon.
Maya and four of her sisters, Kumari, Laxmi, Manisha and Sanjana, are married.
"Eleven people from my family are not with us. While my father and four other members have not yet been found, the bodies of six persons were recovered. We have to start the last rites, but we are at a loss how to go about performing them in this place," said Maya.
According to Nepali Hindu tradition, the son has to be confined to a place for 13 days and he cannot touch any of the family members. The son also has to cook his own food for 13 days.
"Since both my brothers have died, we sisters want to conduct the last rites," said Maya.
In another room, Mamata Thapa, 34, is spending the night with her 21-month-old daughter Priyana.
"We just have a tarpaulin sheet over the cement floor. We all need mattresses as it's difficult to spend the night," she said.
Apart from Tingling Primary School, relief camps have been set up at the garden's hospital, crèche, tea garden office, assistant manager's bungalow and also at Soureni Community Hall.
Altogether, around 600 people are in the relief camps.(The Telegraph)