The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wails of woe and shattered dreams

Darjeeling, Sept. 24: Kalyan Tamang (24) was lying on his bed and playing with his four-year-old daughter Shreya, occasionally taunting the mother who was cooking lunch for the family, when a deafening sound completely shattered his life.

The father-daughter duo was jolted out of their bed only to see Pabitra crushed under the debris. “I did not know what was happening but could only see my wife disappear. She was cooking food and we were waiting for lunch to be served,” said Kalyan.

While Kalyan escaped with some minor injuries on his face and head, Shreya has been referred to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.

Kalyan’s tale of woes did not end here. News soon came that his sister Sunita Tamang had also died in the landslide. While Kalyan can only keep his fingers crossed and hope for his daughter’s speedy recovery, 14-year-old Vikas Ghimraj is still in the dark about the fate of his parents Kazi and Khirod Ghimraj, whose house also disappeared under the debris. It is believed that the Ghimraj family was taking their lunch, when the mishap occurred.

Even as the crowd at Eden Hospital, where all the injured had been brought, remained shell-shocked on seeing the mutilated bodies arriving at regular intervals, a mother refused to accept the death of her 14-year-old son.

While Aashish Lepcha died on her lap, the mother refused to let the authorities take the body to the morgue. “Do not keep him where other bodies are being kept. He is still alive. If he dies, I will die too,” she pleaded with the authorities.

Just when it seemed there was nothing much to hope for, the news of a one-year-old remaining alive despite being trapped for four hours under the debris, brought a cheer. “We thought there was some noise inside and that is when we started breaking the rooftop and finally rescued the child Karan,” said a resident. The people, however could not save Karan’s mother, Sangeta Rai.

At Kazi Gaon, people demonstrated tremendous resilience and apart from helping the district authorities, also contributed whatever they could to arrange for the treatment of the injured.

Shrikumar Mukherjee, additional district magistrate, said there were provisions for compensation for the affected families. “We are preparing a comprehensive report which will forwarded (to Calcutta).”

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