Saturday, June 25, 2011

Landslides in W.Sikkim (23Jun2011)

‘Secure’ house turns graveyard for 14 at Khurong Kewa Dara
Reported By Pratima Rai
GEYZING, June 24: Sixteen persons were killed in multiple slides which broke out in various places of West Sikkim yesterday night due to torrential rainfall between 8:30 pm to 11 pm collapsing the entire inter-district connectivity, power and water supply, said authorities.
            The heaviest death toll was reported from Khurong Kewa Dara along Pelling-Dentam road, some 15 kms away from Geyzing, the District headquarters of West Sikkim where 14 people including an unidentified three months old toddler were buried.
            Two persons were also killed by slides at separate places, Tikjuk and Lower Pelling in West District.
            “Fourteen people were buried when a house in which they had taken shelter at Khurong Kewa Dara collapsed after being hit by a massive slide at around 11:30 pm. Two more persons were killed at other locations by slides”, West District Collector Santa Kumar Pradhan said.
            Pradhan informed that multiple slides which broke out due to heavy rainfall between 8:30 pm and 11:30 pm have virtually collapsed the entire inter-District connectivity along with power and water crises in various parts of the District. Even the District headquarters at Geyzing is suffering from power and water supply problems.
            “We are trying to restore connectivity with the rest of the State by opening the Legship-Gangtok road by evening,” said the District Collector before his mobile went off due to empty battery.
            According to the details pieced from disaster management officials and local volunteers, the heavy casualty at Khurong Kewa Dara took place due to a misplace notion of security among the victims. There are some seven houses in this village and four families living in kutcha houses had taken shelter in a two-storied wooden house belonging to Indra Maya Gurung yesterday night. The house was the only shop in the village.
            “The families who were living in kutcha houses were scared of slides taking place due to heavy rainfall and they had taken shelter in the wooden house considering it to be a secure place. However, a heavy slide peeled off the road above and with boulders and crashed into the house which collapsed”, said disaster managed officer Zigmee Bhutia.
            Eight bodies have been dug out so far, said the official adding the local volunteers, police, fire personnel and other agencies are on the task. If the victims had remained in their houses, they would have survived.                   
           Eleven others had escaped death by either managing to scamper to safety or being a ‘foot away’ when the building crashed under the weight of the slide. Four of them including house owner Indra Maya Gurung have been admitted to District hospital at Geyzing for treatment.
            “The moment I felt that a slide had broken out in the road above, I grabbed my two kids and along with my wife ran away outside. Moments later, the slide came crashing down from 100 feet above the road. The road simply broke off and I felt that a whole hill side was coming down”, said survivor Nima Tamang (23), a Nepal resident who was working as a labourer in the village         Meanwhile at Tikjuk in West Sikkim, a physically challenged woman was killed when she was trying to escape a slide in her village at around the same hour. Deceased Man Maya Subba (55) was running along with her sister from the slide near their house when she was buried in the slide, officials have informed.
            At Lower Pelling, Raj Kumar Thakur, a barber by profession was also killed when his katcha house was hit by a slide, police sources informed. Communications like road, mobile and telephone have been severely crippled in the District due to slides.

Comment by Praful Rao
The fact that 16 people died in the slides indicates that the affected area had a fairly dense population. I have yet to get details of the amount of rainfall or the probable cause of the slides.
What I find perturbing is that  this year landslides are occurring in the first week or two of rains which has been preceded by a long dry spell ie from from Oct2010 till almost now.
My thanks to Sikkim Express for the report and photos.

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