The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Deluge drives out hill tourists

Siliguri, Oct. 9: Incessant rain is driving away tourists from the hills.

Droves of tourists, like P.V Guchar and Indraneel Bhattacharya, are cutting short their holidays and heading home.

While Guchar, who had come all the way from Ahmedabad yesterday, decided to leave, Bhattacharya from Calcutta headed straight for the airport after spending only four days in north Sikkim, wishing he “had not come to the region at all”.

“Those who have been able to cancel bookings are leaving. Only those who are not getting the last-minute refunds on cancellation are staying back, praying hard for the skies to clear,” said Raj Basu, a tour operator.

The Met office, however, holds out no hope.

“The region will experience heavy to very heavy rainfall in almost all parts of the sub-Himalayan region in the next 24 hours. Skies will remain cloudy for the next 48 hours,” said Subir Sarkar, the in-charge of North Bengal University weather station.

“The rain is because of a depression which was formed over the Bay of Bengal four days ago. After lashing south Bengal for two days, it moved into north Bengal today,” he added.

Till 5.30 this evening, the region received around 113.5 mm rain.

Rittika Srinivas is one of the tourists who “had to stay back” because she did not get a refund. “I came here to soak in the natural beauty. But with all this rain, all I have done is watch TV in my hotel room,” she said.

“Thankfully, this is the end of the puja season and there are not many tourists. It would have been difficult had there been landslides. We can just wait and pray for the clouds to clear by the beginning of the next tourist season at the end of this month,” said Deepak Gupta, another tour operator.

For many residents who had come back home for an extended holiday till Lakshmi Puja, however, this was the perfect holiday — watching Rahul Dravid score a double century in the test match against New Zealand and chatting over endless cups of tea and pakoras as the temperature dropped from 24 to 21.5 degrees Celsius.

“This is the perfect weather to relax and enjoy your cup of tea and have khichuri for lunch,” said Parth Maheshwari, a Punjabipara resident.

Pradhan Nagar resident Chaitali Dan does not agree. “This is the time to catch up with friends and exchange Bijoya greetings, but with all the rain, we are trapped in our houses.”

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