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Hill traffic slides to standstill

Siliguri/Kalimpong, Sept. 15: Traffic on the important national highways connecting Darjeeling on one side and Gangtok and Kalimpong on the other resumed, just about, after the authorities strove throughout the day to clear over 20 major and minor landslides.

Heavy overnight rainfall had resulted in the hillsides collapsing on NH 55, connecting Siliguri and Darjeeling, and on NH 31 and 31A, linking the railhead with Gangtok and Kalimpong. While there was one big landslip on NH 55 at Tindharia, at least four major blockages stopped traffic between Sevoke Bazar and Kalijhora on the two other highways since early this morning.

Engineers and workers under contractors employed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) managed to clear the boulders and debris at Hotel Gairia on NH 55 near Tindharia, 27 km from Siliguri on the way to Darjeeling. The route, closed since 5 am, was opened to single-file traffic by 10 am. The toy train tracks were blocked as well and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway authorities had to cancel services for the day.

The landslide did not cause any loss of life or property, but six houses in the area are precariously perched on the hillside right next to the cave-in.

About 17 small landslides took place in the stretch between Sevoke and Kalijhora on NH 31A, while three landslides occurred near Mongpong on NH 31, officials of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO said. There were no reports of loss to life or property.

The major slides occurred at Chunabhati and at a place called 2 Number near Kalijhora and two spots near Coronation Bridge. The landslides between Sevoke and Coronation Bridge a distance of 4 km were cleared by 1 pm, thus enabling vehicles to take an alternative route via Lava to Kalimpong and Sikkim.

The officer in charge of Sevoke police outpost said the movement of smaller vehicles started this evening, but at least 24 hours would be required to completely normalise traffic.

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