Friday, June 5, 2009

Cyclone AILA in pictures : the Darjeeling Episode

I made a one day trip to Darjeeling on the 29May2009 - 3 days after Cyclone AILA and was horrified to see the extent of damage. Unfortunately, it is just what STH has been shouting hoarse about in all the many awareness camps and workshops we have done since Sep07 viz the danger posed by smallish, killer landslides triggered mostly by anthropogenic factors such as drainage in a densely, populated urban scenario.
Without claiming to be any sort of expert, what was evident was:-

a) Most of the landslides were the result of drainage problems.

b) The fact that many landslides occurred during daylight hours was responsible for casualty figures being relatively low.

c) The casualty figures were also low because May is not really our "landslide season". May is pre-monsoon time and the earth is still dry and not lubricated. Our major landslides have always taken place much later during the monsoons, when the earth is saturated with days of heavy precipitation eg Oct1968 and Sep2007

Lets face it, Cyclone AILA was a freak storm which came our way (the last one that hit W Bengal in May was in 1989 as per IMetD) ; what I am worried is that we still have the better part of our 3000mm of annual rainfall left to batter us in the almost 4 months ahead.

The question is how will we survive this onslaught without more landslides and casualties?

My thanks to my good friend Suman Rai for making this trip possible.

Praful Rao

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