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Residents rally to organise rain relief

Darjeeling, July 10: Shaken by the scale of Tuesday’s landslides that displaced 1,052 people across the hills, residents of Darjeeling have come together to complement the district administration’s relief efforts.

They have started the Mero Mirik-Hamro Darjeeling Bataa (My Mirik-From Our Darjeeling) campaign to pool in funds and relief material for those lucky to have survived as chunks of mountain came sliding down under the force of incessant rain. At least 18 people have died in the landslides.

“We started this morning and we are collecting whatever the residents are donating. The response has been tremendous and we will be in a position to send a truckload of material tomorrow,” said Major (retd) K.P. Malla, secretary of the Red Cross Society, which has joined the campaign.

The Hotel Agents’ Association has decided to pitch in with water tanks and food, said Pranay Rai, a lawyer. Later, the residents plan to help the 100-odd families who have lost their houses rebuild them.

While one group has risen to the rescue of those in distress, people are complaining of taxi drivers fleecing travellers. “The vehicles are charging Rs 120 till Sevoke and I am not sure how much the other vehicle will charge from Sevoke to Siliguri. During such emergencies, the operators should not fleece passengers,” said Ramesh Gurung.

As Darjeeling remained cut off for the third day, a few jeeps have started taking passengers till Sevoke via the Mungpoo Road. The travellers then have to walk for over a kilometre and take another vehicle to Siliguri.

Admitting the problem, president of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Transport Joint Action Committee Nim Tshering Bhutia said he was determined to bring things to normal. “I have directed them not to charge more than Rs 80 and I think things will be normal by tomorrow.”

District magistrate Hriydesh Mohan said it would take a couple of days to restore National Highway 55, popularly known as Hill Cart Road, and a couple of days more to restore the Mirik-Siliguri route, which bore the brunt of the landslides.

“We are, however, hopeful of restoring the Pankhabari route by tomorrow and we plan to bring essential items through this route,” he added.

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