The portion that sank on NH31 near the Zurantee river in the Dooars. Picture by Biplab Basak
Aug. 22: A portion of NH31 caved in near a bridge over the Zurantee river between Bagrakote and Odlabari in the Dooars last night following two days of heavy rain, forcing the diversion of traffic.
A 10m deep crater with a length of 7m and width of 6m was formed on the highway.
Vehicles are being diverted through roads via Gazoldoba and Jalpaiguri for travel between Siliguri and the Dooars.
The state public works department said the repair of the damaged portion might be over by this evening.
“The Zurantee river has gone up three metres above the normal level because of heavy rainfall. The water rush damaged a portion of the area near the riverbank. The area has been strengthened with metals and sand as it is along the river. The crater came up on the road because of the erosion of soil under the surface. We have started the repair and want to finish the work by this evening,” said Jitendra Patel, an assistant engineer of state PWD (NH Division IX).
The damaged stretch is around 40km from Siliguri.
A truck heading to Malbazar from Siliguri fell into the river last night as the driver slammed the brake suddenly when he spotted the crater. Nobody was injured in the accident.
NH31 is the principal route to connect the Dooars and the Northeast with Siliguri. Since this morning, vehicles have been taking the route via Gazoldoba (the Teesta barrage bridge) or Jalpaiguri, that entails an additional distance of around 40km.
Hundreds of daily commuters, particularly in the western Dooars, boarded local and express trains to reach their destinations because of the traffic disruption on NH31.
According to the local people, the highway had sunk in a similar fashion at the approach of the bridge a few years ago.
“A stretch of the approach road to the bridge had collapsed after the soil under the surface had been washed away by the river water two years back. The same agency (state PWD) had carried out an extensive repair then. Still, the road sunk last night. We have serious doubts about the quality of work done two years ago,” said a trader in the locality.
Stakeholders of the tourism industry have expressed concern over the road collapse. “The entire Dooars and the adjoining areas have been receiving heavy rain for the past few days. We expect the state PWD to restore the road and inspect the entire stretch of the highway in the Dooars to prevent similar incidents in future,” said Kamal Bhowmik, a hotel owner at Lataguri near Gorumara National Park.
“The Puja season is hardly three weeks away and if the highway gets damaged, tourists will be affected,” he added.