September 20, 2011 2:50:48 am
Amid slow pace of rescue operations hit by heavy rains in the hills of Darjeeling district,the death toll in Sundays 6.8 magnitude earthquake rose to eight on Monday.
Many rescue teams remained stranded as landslides at several places had blocked the roads to the hills. The inclement weather kept the helicopters at Bagdogra airport in Siliguri grounded and as a result a 19-member medical and over 800 members of health and disaster management from both the Centre and the state governments could not be airlifted.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,who directly headed to Kurseong from Bagdogra airport in Siliguri,held a meeting there with district officials of Darjeeling. She was accompanied by Union Minister Mukul Roy,states Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee and North Bengal Affairs Minister Gautam Deb.
She then went to Giddapahar,also in Kurseong,where several landslides had occurred due to quake and rain that had been battering the area for the last four days. She also visited Kalimpong and met the victims there.
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She later left for Siliguri where she visited the injured at the sub-divisional hospital and met the family members of Vinod Agarwal,who died from a wall collapse.
Two control rooms have been set up for giving the information one for Kolkata and another for north Bengal.
There was,however,a small relief for the people traumatised by the earthquake — the power lines which got snapped in Darjeeling and Kalimpong were restored. According to Harka Bahadur Chetri,the GJM MLA from Kalimpong,power supply was restored in the area on Monday morning but the tremors have left a trail of devastation in the entire hills.
Several buildings have been damaged and developed wide cracks,he said,adding that landslides took place in many areas in and around Kalimpong,which has blocked the road link to Siliguri as well as Sikkim.
About 1,000 houses have been damaged in the area. Among them are two government buildings,the Kalimpong treasury building and the SDO office which suffered extensive damage.
In Darjeeling,the situation was no different. People spent a sleepless night and left the doors of their homes open,fearing aftershocks. We were all ready to take refuge in the open should there be more tremors. It was scary as there was total darkness in the absence of electricity in many areas, said Angshuman Talukdar,a resident of the town. In many areas,power returned at around 10.30 pm last night,but a large number of people preferred to brave the cold and pouring rains instead of returning to their homes. Many people,he said,preferred to stay in government school compounds as many houses in the town have developed cracks. The staircase of Talukdars five-storied apartment building has partially collapsed. We felt several small earthquakes last evening after the big one but none today. The people are aware that this region is in high seismic zone and are therefore more scared, he said.
On Monday,most business and government establishments remained closed in Darjeeling. Meanwhile,cracks have been repaired on Chowrasta connecting parts of Darjeeling to the Hill Cart Road. A few vehicles were seen on the roads which were deserted since last evening.
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