Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sikkim and Kalimpong still cut off

BRO at work with bulldozer & gelatin

- Cops stop people from crossing stretch

Siliguri, Aug. 28: Forty-hours after a landslide struck near Sevoke on NH 31A, traffic movement is yet to return to normality.
The mountainside along with rocks, mud and uprooted trees had come tumbling down at Hatisuray — between Coronation Bridge and Kalijhora, 26km from Siliguri.
“The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is working hard to restore traffic on the route. We are hopeful that the repair will be completed in another 48 hours,” said Rajesh Pandey, the district magistrate of Darjeeling.
Work was delayed mainly because of heavy showers in the past 48 hours. Though at least 10 blasts had been carried out yesterday with gelatin sticks to clear the debris, the situation remained more or less the same.
This morning, the BRO started removing debris with the help of bulldozers and policemen from the Sevoke and Rambhi outposts wereposted to prevent people from crossing the stretch on foot.
The BRO had complained to the district police chief that frequent movement of people through the affected area was hampering work. “After that, the police superintendent of Darjeeling district directed us not to allow passengers to cross the stretch,” said Prankrishna Das, the officer--in-charge of the Sevoke police outpost.
Though a few stranded vehicles left Hatisuray this morning, most drivers decided to wait for another day, expecting the road to open any time.
“We are here because we don’t have much option,” said Lakpa Thapa, a truck driver. He has been stranded at Sevoke since yesterday and his vehicle is loaded with vegetables and foodgrain that he is supposed to deliver at Jorethang, 90km from here.
With the main roadlink to Sikkim and Kalimpong being cut off, passengers who are in hurry are paying double the rate to reach their destinations.
“Usually the fare to Gangtok from here is Rs 120 per passenger. But since yesterday, we have been taking our vehicles through the alternative routes, which take six to seven hours more. Hence, we have been forced to increase our fare to Rs 240 to Rs 250 per passenger,” said Bhaskar Majumdar, a pre-paid taxi booth owner from the Siliguri junction area.