| The shed at Darjeeling station. Picture by Suman Tamang
July 17: Blinding rain triggered landslides across the Darjeeling hills today and the turbulent Teesta is threatening to breach the danger mark.
A tea garden worker was buried under the debris in his house near Kurseong as boulders came crashing around seven this morning.
The rest of the family fled sensing danger, but Kishan Rai, 35, who was sleeping, couldn’t be alerted.
The toy train shed off Darjeeling station was completely destroyed. Three engines were trapped under debris and a century-old steam engine, which was parked outside, was covered in tonnes of slush.
Chedup Lepcha’s house near the station is hanging.
Papilla Rai, who lives in Sivitar, near Kurseong, was cooking when her roof caved in.
“My relatives said they had screamed to send me a warning, but I couldn’t hear them, probably because of the rain,” she said from hospital.
Pasang Sherpa of Mirik was pulled out of several feet of mud by paramilitary jaw- ans. “Our house is below a road lined by hotels but with no drain. The water swept all the mud into our house and buried my husband. He was watching TV,” said Binita.
Darjeeling received 190mm of rain between 8.30am yesterday and 8.30am today, the Met office in Calcutta said.
Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said there were no reports of tourists being stranded in the hills.
National highway 55, which connects Siliguri with Darjeeling, was cut off by debris 25km from Siliguri. One of the lanes was cleared by evening.
The highway connecting Sikkim to the rest of the country was opened to traffic this evening after remaining blocked by two landslides between Rangpo and Gangtok for the best part of two days. Small vehicles are still finding it difficult to negotiate the stretch.
Heavy to very heavy rain has been forecast in sub-Himalayan Bengal for the next couple of days.
A “yellow alert” has been issued for both banks of the Teesta, from Sevoke to the Bangladesh border at Mekhliganj in Cooch Behar.
“The water level (from the riverbed) has risen to above 150m at Coronation Bridge and to 85.65m near Jalpaiguri,” the flood control commission said. “A red alert would be issued in case it goes up 3m more.”
One of the piers supporting the bridge over the Bala- son at Matigara tilted because of strong currents, a railway engineer said. The metre gauge track leads to Katihar through Bagdogra and Naxalbari.