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Slide blocks NH31A for 12 hours

Gangtok, Sept. 14: The NH31A that connects Sikkim with the rest of the country was blocked for over 12 hours after a landslide at Kirney last night.

The road was opened this afternoon.

Around 500 vehicles were stranded on both sides of Kirney in Kalimpong subdivision as slush and debris fell on a 300metre-stretch on the highway. Most Gangtok-bound vehicles took a detour via Kalimpong that takes one hour extra.

“The landslide occurred yesterday around midnight. A portion of the land above the highway slipped on to the road resulting in the halt of traffic,” said an official of the Border Roads Organisation, which looks after the road.

On the Siliguri-Gangtok route, Kirney is 8km before Rangpo.

BRO sources said the landslide occurred because of continuous rain for the past few days.

“Rangpo and the surrounding areas recorded 80mm of rain in the past 24 hours,” said an official of the Met department in Gangtok.Rangpo is 35km from here.

“Excavators and workers were deployed to clear the debris. But shooting stones had become a major hurdle in the restoration work,” said the BRO official.

Gangtok-bound vehicles took a detour via Kalimpong, Munsong and Rangpo.

“It takes an hour extra to reach Rangpo via Munsong and it is the only road that leads to Gangtok other than NH31A,” said Madan Sherpa, a taxi driver from Gangtok.

Most Siliguri-bound vehicles, however, waited for the highway to open.

According to a police officer at Melli checkpost, 3km away from the slide-hit area, more than 300 vehicles were stranded for the entire night.

Pema Lama, a local tour operator, said around 150 tourists were stranded.