Monday, June 30, 2008

Media coverage: Mamring landslide (29Jun2008)

Excerpt from Telegraph 30Jun2008

Boulders hang over hill village
- Administration begins evacuation

Kurseong June 29: Boulders set loose by a landslide on the hill overlooking Upper Mamring Bustee have blocked the main approach road to the village and put at risk 59 houses.

A 12-metre-high boulder got stuck just above the village, around 20 meters from the first house today. The administration has started evacuating the families under threat.

“A large portion of the hillside overlooking the village, located 21km from Kurseong town, crumbled, probably because of the rain last night. We will evacuate all the people from the 59 houses because the boulders are a big threat at the moment. If it rains late in the evening or at night, the boulders may crash down on the houses, giving no chance to the villagers to even run away,” said Manish Verma, the block development officer of Kurseong.

Verma added that 12 big boulders are perched precariously above the village. The road that directly connects the village to Kurseong town has been blocked at two points.

The evacuated people are being shifted to temporary shelters set up at the primary school and on a small ground on the other side of the village.

Asha Mukhia Lama, the relief officer of Kurseong subdivision, said tarpaulins and blankets were being sent to the shelters via Lower Mamring Road, which takes around two-and-a-half hours.

The village has around 170 houses, but apart from the 59, the remaining are located far from the landslide zone and are safe for the moment, officials said.

According to the villagers, they spotted the boulders coming down around 8.30am.

Ajay Rai, a contractor who lives in Upper Mamring Bustee, said: “I was riding my motorcycle to a construction site. Suddenly, a boulder, which must have been 6-metre high, landed in front of the motorcycle. It was my luck that I managed to brake just in time. I left the motorcycle there and ran away. Later, I saw the whole hill coming down. By then, the residents had started running here and there.”

At least five families left their houses on their own and took shelter in nearby villages like Turuk and Lower Mamring, added Rai.

Since the concrete road leading to Upper Mamring Bustee is the lifeline of the village, the residents said the landslide would impact the local economy, which is solely dependent on agriculture.

“Almost every villager here depends on agriculture produce. Since the road is completely blocked at two points, the residents will surely have to bear losses.

“We will now have to engage people to carry the produce on their back and walk around 1.5km, which will prove costly. However, we must say we are lucky since the people have had a close shave,” said Hemant Gurung, a farmer from Upper Mamring Bustee.


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