Monday, June 27, 2011

Multiple landslides across West Sikkim kills 16

Gangtok, June 24:  The Multiple landslides across West Sikkim last night triggered by torrential rain have killed 16 persons and cut off the inter-district road connectivity and power and water supply for more than 20 hours. The incessant rain caused several slides at West Sikkim at Khorong Busty near Pelling, Lower Pelling and Tikjek Busty on the night of 23rd June, between 8.30 to 11.30 PM. At Khorung Busty, in Upper Pellling
The highest death toll was reported from Khurong Kewa Dara along the Pelling-Dentam road, 15km from Geyzing, the district headquarters of West Sikkim. A three-month-old baby was among the 14 people who were buried alive at Khurong Kewa, 125km from Sikkim capital Gangtok.

One person each were killed by landslides at Tikjuk and Lower Pelling, 20km from Khurong Kewa (See map).
“Fourteen people were buried alive when a house in which they had taken shelter at Khurong Kewa Dara collapsed after being hit by a massive landslide around 11.30pm. Two more persons were killed at other locations,” said West district collector Santa Kumar Pradhan.

Pradhan said the multiple landslides, which occurred because of heavy rainfall between 8.30pm and 11.30pm, had virtually cut off the roads connecting the district and caused power and water crises in various parts of the district.

Even the district headquarters is suffering from power and water supply problems, the collector said.

“We are trying to restore the road connectivity with the rest of the state by opening the Legship-Gangtok road by evening,” said the district collector.

By 8pm, debris spread across 30km on the Legship-Geyzing road had been removed. The other approach road from South Sikkim, a 60km route via Zoo-Salgari, is still blocked. From Gangtok, the West district can be approached only through South Sikkim.

District headquarters Geyzing and its surrounding areas have been without power since last night, Bhutia said. Water supply, too, has been affected.

Most of the people are having to do with water collected from the jhoras and rainwater.Bhutia said 11 families in Khecupalri village, where the famous lake by the same name is also located, had been shifted to safer locations because of the vulnerable position of their houses.

According to the details together pieced from disaster management officials and local volunteers engaged in rescue work, the casualty at Khurong Kewa Dara took place because of a misplaced notion of security among the victims.

“There are some seven houses in this village.Four families living in thatched mud houses had taken shelter in the two-storied wooden house of Indra Maya Gurung last night. The house had also a shop, the only one in the village,” said disaster management officer Zigmee Bhutia.

“They thought the wooden house was secure. But a heavy landslide peeled off the road above the house and boulders crashed into the building. If the victims had remained in their houses, they would have survived,” said Bhutia. Eight bodies have been dug out so far.

Among the deceased were five members of a family from Darjeeling who were working as labourers in the village.

Two couples from Nepal — one of them with their three-month old child — were among those buried alive. Four local people, two of them children aged 8 and 12, are also among the dead.

Eleven others escaped death by either managing to scamper to safety or being a “only a foot away”. Four of them, including house owner Indra Maya Gurung, have been admitted to district hospital at Geyzing with injuries.

“The moment I felt the landslide on the road above, I grabbed my two children and my wife ran outside our home. Moments later, the debris came crashing down from 100 feet above the road. The road simply broke off and I felt that a whole hill side was coming down,” said survivor Nima Tamang, a 23-year-old from Nepal who was working as a labourer in Khurong Kewa. He along with his wife and children spent the night in a cave near the village.

At Tikjuk, a physically challenged woman who walked with a limp was killed when she was trying to escape a landslide around the same hour.
In adjoining Lower Pelling, Raj Kumar Thakur, a barber, was killed when his kutcha house was hit by a landslide.

(Photos:Savethehills &Sikkimmail)

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