By: Subham Dutta
Kankarvita is a border checkpoint between India and Nepal and one does not need a visa. It was 9:30 am when I crossed the checkpoint, about 35 km from Siliguri.
Normally a bustling entry point and a lifeline between Siliguri and Kathmandu, it was deserted today. I drove on towards Dhulabari and Damak, from where luxury buses and cabs take people to Kathmandu. Nepalese officials said this region has not suffered much damage but everyone is fearful about the next earthquake.
As I reached Kankaidham, 35 km from Kankarvita, around 12.45, an uneasiness struck the driver and me too. Was the road uneven? Then we saw hordes of people coming out of their homes, running into open spaces and shouting “Bhukamp, bhukamp.” The earth was shaking once more.
At Kankaidham, I stopped in the midst of a group. Sitadevi Chhetri held a baby in her arms. “Since yesterday, I have felt these tremors more than 15 times. This one was more severe,” she said. “Last night, no one was inside their houses and today there were rumours that a fresh earthquake would come at about noon. It has come a little later. We hear another one will come at night.”
At Damak, people had gathered at the terminus from where buses ply to Kathmandu. Everyone was asking about Kathmandu and other places now out of bounds.
Bishnu Gautam, 24, had come with her sister from a village called Dushkarpani. Bishnu’s relatives are in Kathmandu, near Buddha Gumfa, and she has had no news of them since Saturday’s earthquake.
From Damak, two routes runs to Kathmandu, via Chitwan and via Sindhuli. Both links are snapped as roads have cracked. So has the Bagbati bridge that one has to cross to enter Kathmandu from Damak.
On the way back, I found that Dhulabari, one of the centres from where Chinese and Korean goods flood the Siliguri markets, was now shut. It had been open when I had crossed it in the morning. Arjun Timilsinam, a Dy Sp at Kankarvita, said it was shut after Sunday’s earthquake.
A team of the NGO CINI was at the checkpost, with milk, tarpaulin sheets, and food. Sekhar Saha, the team leader, said that they would try and reach Kathmandu as early as possible. ‘There will be people in dire need.”