May 28, 2009


SILIGURI,26th MAY: It is raining fiercely in Darjeeling district even as we file this report.  There is darkness at noon -- brought about by low scudding clouds that open up and down comes the rain pour-- rain in the shape of large fearsome drops and the bare skin stings.  Trees falling left and right on the difficult terrain of the circuitous and climbing Pankhabari Road make the earth assume a shape much like the landscape of a war-torn futuristic outline. 


People continue to run helter-skelter to save themselves form the hail of falling stones and large chunks of mud.  Roads to and from Siliguri and Darjeeling town are impassable.  The town itself has no electricity and no running water.  Even the hardy hill people find it a tough going. 

We suppose only the very adventurous and the ‘informative’ reporters are out of bed.  The entire tourist brigade up in the hills, without even basic amenities for 72 hours now, is in bad shape as the temperature drops suddenly, surreptitiously.  Bundled up, everybody looks piteous.

Sad as figures of those dead and injured come out of the office of the district and sub-divisional administration.  Eleven have been swept to their demise in the fierce natural fury.  A child Hrishika Subba aged but three, died when the jhora of falling stones hit her.  There is more than a dozen of the hill people recorded as ‘missing,’ and only the worst is presumed about their fate.


The district administration met at Siliguri amidst the calamity and chalked out a disaster management plan.  Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya and Siliguri Mayor Nurul Islam amongst others were present.  One learns that all rivers are in spate especially the fast-flowing wide-mouthed the Mahananda and the Balason.

The administration has kept on the standby, nearly three lakh pieces of dhoti-sari-lungi, as well as a great quantity of tarpaulin and thick plastic sheets plus poles.  Elsewhere, north Dinajpore, Maldaha, Jalpaiguri, and Coochbehar, the latter two bordering a rain-swept Assam, recorded upto 150 mm of rain, which has poured down never-ending, as the skies seemed to open up.  

More than a lakh of people are affected in these districts alone.  Most have been rendered homeless.  Power supply is infrequent as is the furnishing of potable water.  The river Teesta has continued to erode and erase both her banks as the flow increases and the twist in her turbulence reaches the limit. 


All over the state close to a hundred people, men, women, and children, have died in the rage of the cyclonic storm.  The Bengal Left Front government has tackled relief work on a war footing.  Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited several places in the affected parts of south 24 Parganas, spoke to the people, and looked to the relief and rehabilitation efforts.  The Trinamul Sabhadhipati of the district boycotted the meeting Buddhadeb took, bringing political affiliation above humane considerations, not unexpectedly perhaps.  Finance minister Asim Dasgupta on visiting Tamluk has spot-sanctioned Re one core 80 lakh for storm-swept Midnapore east.  

More than 100 relief camps have been set up across the calamity-hit districts.  More are in the making.  The relief camps house nearly half-a-lakh of people.  The relief efforts go on with redoubled speed but much remains to be done, yet.  The full picture of the damage will only emerge when the rains have ceased and the wind has dropped off.  Meteorologists predict a weakening of the storm as the week drags by for the stricken people. 

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