By: Subham Dutta; Principal Photographer
The day had begun well with lot of enthusiasm over the municipal polls and Siliguri municipality happened to be one of the most keenly fought ones between the Trinamool Congress and the CPM. The morning was overcast and a slight drizzle began soon after the polling began.
This Photographer headed towards Shalugarah a locality in the Himalayan foothills and in the outskirts of Siliguri town to capture some images of voting with the mountains in the backdrops. Three Gorkha women arrived at the polling booth and as they were being photographer suddenly the earth seemed to be swinging.
The Gorkha women first burst out in laughs but soon realised the swinging was quite violent and it was hard to keep balance. They knelt down and later said it seemed as if they were floating on a tumbler.
Almost at the same time conch shells began to blow and people around shouted : “Bhukamp, bhukamp, bhago.” The polling booth at Shalugaraha became deserted for some time.
As I travelled back to the Siliguri Town there was report of a death. Manglu Roy – a daily wage earner in Bhaktinagar police station area of Siliguri died when a wall collapsed on him during the earthquake at around noon. Manglu got trapped beneath the debris and died while being taken to North Bengal Medical College hospital.
At Pradhan Nagar I witnessed the first floor balcony of a building was hanging precariously. In Siliguri town many buildings developed cracks but in Pradhannagar one balcony of a three storied building collapsed.
Meanwhile, the voters queue outside the booths had got disorganized. People who were standing in the queue ran in panic. Polling in most booths had to be suspended temporarily.
The Siliguri town one of the biggest attraction – the City Centre was teeming with people. But most of them were shoppers who had come out of the building in panic and sat outside.
A little distance away, the Neotia Get Well hospital was abuzz with medical staff running helter and skelter. It was later known from a hospital doctor that all patients were evacuated from upper floors and brought down to the ground floor along with saline bottles, blood transfusion. From closed door and glass partition, a nurse was seen holding a baby on her lap.
There was not much damage to the Darjeeling hill station, according to initial reports. The Superintendent of Police Darjeeling Akhilesh Chaturvedi said that some building cracks were reported but the district administration was in the process of assessing the damage. There was no major damage to the hill station,said Chaturvedi.