| The spot where the landslip took place. The houses perched precariously on the hill can be seen on the top right hand corner. Picture by Pema Leyda Shangderpa
Gangtok, June 13: A part of a rocky hill located next to the traffic point at Amdo Golai came crashing down on Indira Bypass this afternoon, leaving the route under 100 feet of earth and rubble.
A traffic policeman, who was on duty at the intersection of the bypass and NH 31A, escaped with a fractured leg when the rocks and debris came tumbling down at 4.30 pm. Chabilal Chettry is undergoing treatment at Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital here.
Had the otherwise busy route not been deserted at the time, it would have led to a greater disaster.
Mohammed Islam, an eyewitness to the incident, said: “There was a huge noise and I saw the hill coming down. I ran for my life. Luckily there wasn’t a single vehicle around.”
Police have cordoned off the area and a pedestrian walk located just above the landslip has also been sealed.
The 7-km Indira Bypass begins at Amdo Golai in Tadong, 2 km from here, and ends at Penengla, connecting NH 31A to the North Sikkim highway.
Five buildings are now perched precariously on the hill above the bypass. The families living in them have been evacuated.
One of the buildings belongs to Pratap Tiwari, the additional secretary of the buildings and housing department. The house had been declared “not fit for living” on June 3 after heavy rainfall. According to experts, further showers could topple the building.
“The area is cracking up. Added to this are the vibrations of traffic movement. Since a large chunk of earth has fallen away from the side of the hill, it will be difficult for it to bear the pressure of the buildings,” said a district official,
Since there was no rain this afternoon, the landslip could have been triggered by the excavation work being carried out at the base of the hill and the movement of heavy traffic. Generally military trucks and vehicles carrying goods prefer this route as it connects several suburbs like Sichey and Burtuk and the civil helipad without entering the congested Gangtok town.
District officials along with senior police officers, rescue teams and civil defence members reached the spot around 10 minutes after the slip. While the clearing of the road could take a couple of days, explosives might have to be used to blow up the bigger rocks and stones. For the moment, however, labourers from the Border Roads Organisation have been deployed to clear the route manually. Debate is still on about the use of explosives as it could loosen the earth further.
“We are taking stock of the situation and will take a decision regarding the clearing of the road at the earliest,” said Naveen Chettri, the additional district collector of East Sikkim.
Indira Bypass houses several offices including garages, residences and also the party headquarters of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front.