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Heavy rain, landslides in N Bengal

Water from the overflowing Raidak river passes over NH31 in Cooch Behar, forcing traffic to be halted. The highway, other than NH31C, is the only road linking the Northeast to the rest of the country. (Main Uddin Chisti)

Aug. 12: Incessant rain in the past three days has crippled life in the seven north Bengal districts, creating a flood-like situation in the plains and triggering landslides in the Darjeeling hills, where relief work was hobbled by the ongoing statehood strike.

As water from the brimming Raidak river swamped NH31 in Cooch Behar, the country's only road link to the Northeast other than NH31C had to be closed to traffic. Over five lakh people have been affected by widespread inundation and landslides.

Five persons died in rain-triggered accidents. Two boys aged five and eight years drowned in Jalpaiguri's Malkani today after falling into a pond as they could not make out where the waterlogged area ended.

In Darjeeling, 78-year-old Norbu Tamang was crushed under the rubble of his landslide-damaged house. Another Darjeeling resident, Man Kumari Rai, 50, died when stones from a landslide hit her.

Laltu Roy, 19, of Toofanganj in Cooch Behar drowned while ferrying his cattle to safety on a raft made with banana plant stems.

Heavy to extremely heavy rain - over 200mm - has been forecast for tomorrow.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has put her cabinet on alert and tasked chief secretary Moloy De with monitoring the situation.

Many of the region's rivers, including the Torsha, are flowing above the danger level.

The flood-like situation in north Bengal comes as south Bengal is limping back to normality following floods.

Darjeeling district magistrate Joyoshi Das Gupta said: "We have initiated rescue and relief work. But because of the strike, we could not stock adequate amount of relief materials." As the public works department has not been able to clear the drains, several localities in the hills have been affected, she added.

A landslide on NH10 in Kalimpong disrupted traffic movement to Sikkim for a few hours. After the debris was cleared, vehicles were allowed to move in a single file, considerably slowing down traffic.

The state election commission has deferred the polls in wards 15 and 16 of Dhupguri municipality in Jalpaiguri to August 16 from tomorrow because of inundation.

Vast areas of Darjeeling went without electricity for several hours because of landslides before the state power utility repaired damaged cables and poles.

There have been flash floods in some areas of Alipurduar district. "Water from rivers and rivulets has flooded several tea estates," a tea association member said.

Several local trains got delayed or had to be re-routed because of track damage.


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