Siliguri, July 12: Road links with Darjeeling, cut off by recent landslides, will gradually be restored, said public works department minister Amar Choudhury.
The link with Mirik, disrupted five days ago, will be restored on Monday, said Choudhury, who is in the region to assess the damage to roads caused by the landslides. At least 25 people have died since Monday as heavy rain lashed the hills, causing landslides that wiped out roads, railway tracks and destroyed bridges and houses.
“The work is going on in full swing and we hope to be able to restore links with Mirik temporarily by Monday to enable small vehicles to pass through,” Choudhury said. “The deadline for permanent restoration cannot be given as the monsoon is far from over and further heavy rainfall will pose many problems for restoration work,” said the minister.
The link with Darjeeling through Pankhabari was restored temporarily yesterday and light vehicles are plying with great difficulty. Choudhury described the scene as shocking and said the damage on the 15-km stretch to Mirik was unprecedented.
“The devastation we saw is much greater than what we had expected and the correct estimate of damage cannot be made. We will be holding discussions on this. The extent of damage in Mirik alone could be about Rs 8-10 crore,” Choudhury said. The minister visited flood and landslide affected places, accompanied by principal secretary Swapan Chakraborty and chief engineers of the PWD and the national highway division.
“The bridge over Rohini river at Khaprail will be temporarily restored in the next seven days. Permanent restoration will take at least two months,” he said. Choudhury also said the 30-metre stretch of road at Debigang, which has been washed away, will be restored immediately.
Tomorrow, the minister will travel along NH-55, where several landslides between Rongtong to Tindharia have virtually cut off Kurseong and Darjeeling. The two places are now accessible only through Pankhabari.
“We have been allotted a crore by the finance department for immediate reconstruction and more funds are expected to follow,” Choudhury said.
Urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said help will be sought from Hudco for rebuilding houses that have been damaged in the landslides.