Friday, June 12, 2009

Cyclone AILA stories continued ...From the Telegraph today

Scurry to flee landslides

- 40 families desert village every night after cyclone VIVEK CHHETRI

Rai Busty (Darjeeling), June 11: Monsoon has not yet set in but every time the skies darken, Puran Rai scurries with his family of three to a rented house situated 3km away.
The 39-year-old Puran is not alone. After Cyclone Aila struck last month, at least 40 families have refused to take chances.
Fear of killer landslides has already forced eight families to rent apartments at Alubari and Jorebunglow, considered a safe zone.
The story is the same at Sunar Busty across the hill. Nine of the 34 families have already shifted base since May 26, the day the cyclone triggered 40 landslides in the hills, killing 20 people.
“No one was killed in our village and only one house was damaged. That was perhaps the reason why little attention has been given to our village. However, the entire village can be wiped off any day if there is a torrential rain. The area is sinking and landslides have been an annual feature since 2000,” said Puran.
The villagers come back every morning and on the “dry days” to look after their fields. “There is only one person in our village who works with the government. Others are all farmers while some are drivers and labourers,” said Puran.
Rai Busty and Sunar Busty are located on slopes, as a result of which there are no protection walls around the villages. Besides, the soil is also loose. An inspection of the villages revealed that some of the areas had sunk below the normal level of land and houses have developed cracks.
“We had even invited the previous Darjeeling MP to visit our village. He has assured us of rehabilitation. Promises had been made by previous leaders running the DGHC too, but nothing happened,” added Puran, who wants to move out of this village.
However, Amrita Subba of Sunar Busty said: “If the government builds protection walls and keeps the drains open, we do not have to leave the village. We have so much of land why should we leave this place,” she adds.
The area has witnessed landslides since 1950. But problems have been compounded by lack of drainage and protection wall.


Uncertainty in Aila-hit school


Kurseong, June 11: The 700-odd students of Pankhabari High School that was struck by the Aila do not know when their classes will begin.
The school was one of the many buildings in the hills that had been damaged by the cyclone on May 26. The roof of the two-storied building had been swept away and the documents along with 12 computers of the institution had been destroyed. Classes had been suspended following the disaster.
“Repair of the building has already started but we do not know when it will finish. We are expecting the work to finish soon so that we can start classes at the earliest,” said H.D. Chettri, the teacher in-charge of the school.
The Pankhabari school, located 9km from here, was established in 1964 while the building that was damaged was constructed in 1986.
The school authorities have, however, started classes for the 150 students of Classes X and XII. “Since they will sit for the board exams and we have to finish their syllabus in time, we have started their classes in the three rooms of our administrative building,” added Chettri.
Other students have to wait till the repair is done, Chettri said. He also could not specify how long the repair would take. “We cannot at this time say how much time the work will take.”
Chettri said classes would be extended till December to make up the shortfall.


Praful Rao

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