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Shaken by 7-second scare

Feb. 14: From Malda to Cooch Behar, thousands of people were jolted out of their morning slumber today by a tremor that originated in the north, in Sikkim. Those who were already awake could relate the episode, lasting around 40 seconds in two phases.

It was around 6.25 am when the earth shook. 'I had just come back from my morning walk and was sitting down for a cup of tea when my chair shook,' said Dipankar Mukherjee of Milanpalli in Siliguri, one of the most populated centres in the region.

'Not only the chair, but the cup, saucer, the table ... within two seconds, I realised that it was an earthquake and shouted to my family to go out of the house. By that time, the second tremor started and it seemed more intense than the first. Luckily, it lasted for just about seven seconds and nothing much happened,' he said.

Over a kilometre away, N.C. Ray, a doctor at the Siliguri Subdivisional Hospital, was woken up from sleep when his bed trembled. A resident of an apartment complex on Baghajatin Road, he at first did not realise it was a tremor.

'Even when there was a noise from the bookshelf and some toys fell to the ground, I thought it was a mouse. But when I felt the whole room shaking, I knew it was an earthquake and rushed out of the building with my family. Thankfully, the second tremor subsided within seconds.'

By that time, conch shells had started blowing from all over the locality, as in many other towns and villages in the region, to ward off evil and destruction. It seemed to have worked. Even members of Laughing Club, who assemble every morning at Baghajatin Park, laughed off the incident a few minutes later.

In Darjeeling, people were seen scurrying out of their houses soon after the first tremor started. Many residents later admitted that they feared for their lives and property. Rajesh Chhetri, a lawyer said: 'I immediately came out of my house but thankfully the tremors did not last for long and were not that intense.' There were no reports of any damage to property or injuries in Darjeeling.

Mild tremors were felt in the districts of north Bengal and Sikkim this morning after an earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale, shook the region. According to experts, the tremors were felt in areas located within a 200-km radius of the epicentre.

'The epicentre we have located is situated on the upper Himalayan crust and in the Indo-Burma plate,' said Subir Sarkar, in charge of the weather station of North Bengal University.

'In the past 10 years, the magnitude of earthquakes in the region has remained between 5-6 on the scale,' Sarkar added.

In Jalpaiguri, hundreds of people rushed out into the open. Here, as in Cooch Behar and Malda, women blew conch shells and prayed that no destruction to life or property occurred. Mother Nature apparently heard them just in time.

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