Showing posts with label Disaster management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disaster management. Show all posts

An Open Letter to Narendra Modi Sir From an Honest Assamese

11:29 AM

I have always been a proud civilian of India, but, I am overwhelmingly humiliated to see all the agony some other natives of Assam are going through every year. This is something which I have been thinking from quite some time now. I needed to ask you as to how much do you bother about Assam? We all appreciate the incessant debates about the central government overlooking us and our essentials, but, does the unfortunate people really sense any modifications through these discussions between government and other authorities or are they just regarded as mere tools to another misleading melodrama of yours? Don’t you think it is high time we act more than we discuss about the ongoing complications? We, the deprived people of Assam, don’t worry about your bill and budgets, because, we seldom get time to protect ourselves from the flood which ruins our crops, land and home. We fear about our future, our children starving and the constant horror of death. We panic for our life.

According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority report, the current flood has destroyed around 1.37 lakh hectare of crops this year making over 1.27 lakh people homeless across 19 districts. More than 10 people died till date. We are not even counting the past years yet. Areas like Morigaon, Lakhimpur, Kaziranga, Dhemaji, etc are facing the major breaches of the river Brahmaputra. You, sir talking about digital India, what modern technology do you think, is preferable to save us from the calamity every year? Does this 1.27 lakh people seem nothing to you? We don’t need your statistics as to how much fund are you sending to help us. We want you to come and see as to how much of those funds are being actually used for us.
Let’s, for a second ignore the human beings, but, what about the natural resources and wildlife in Kaziranga?  We people have shelters to run away from but what about those animals who die every year due to our negligence and lack of protection. Does providing wildlife rehabilitation and reservation centres are enough to protect them?
Assam Flood
Assam Flood
Sir, for you, it might not be a natural calamity but for the poor farmers, who goes hungry day and night to get their annual crops, it surely is a natural disaster. For the children who cannot visit their school for education, it is a natural calamity. For the families who lost their loved ones, it is a natural calamity. For the animals who can’t voice their pain, it is a natural calamity. For the family who loses their whole future in just one day, it is a natural calamity. For the people who see their own houses being taken away by flood, it is a natural calamity.

It is easier for us, who are fortunate enough to live a prosperous life, to comment that flood happens all the time. But, those people are going through much more than that. We understand, it is wrong to comment as to why Chennai, Mumbai, etc. gets help and media coverage as all human beings are equal in the eye of law. But, Article 21 of the Indian constitution gives right to life for everyone including the poor inhabitants of Assam too. So, why don’t you prove to us this time that your Government doesn’t neglect us as we feel so. If, that’s too much we are asking for then you are failing us as the representative of the people.


Pathetic construction of buildings in the Darjeeling hills

4:36 PM
Writes Vivek Chhetri
Darjeeling, July 24: The collapse of a four-storey structure in Darjeeling on Friday night, which led to seven deaths, has brought to focus the pathetic construction of buildings in the hills.

Buildings have virtually come up in thin air in Darjeeling with residents using vertical wooden stilts to create space, though in reality, there is no land for construction.

Prashant Rai, the municipal engineer of Darjeeling civic body, said: "We appeal to residents not to be careless as it concerns your own safety. People rely on the skills of masons. Although masons are skilled labourers, they are not experts on the science of construction."

The Telegraph went around in town today and found that some houses had "hanging staircase", while others had created space over streams without proper support.

Multi-storied buildings have been constructed on steep slopes and without foundation, and some houses merely sit on the ground.

"I fail to understand how people can even think of coming up with such constructions," said an architect who didn't want to be named.

Amar Singh Rai, the Darjeeling municipality chairman, said the civic body would start a survey tomorrow on illegal buildings.

Asked about the issue, he said: "It's a huge problem. There are a number of issues involved. People have to be given alternative space (for business or accommodation). Whenever we go to check structures that have come up illegally, people point at other areas where also such buildings have mushroomed. Nevertheless, we will launch a survey tomorrow and issue notices to those who own illegal structures and try our best to remove them.
Pathetic construction of buildings in the Darjeeling hills

The exact cause of the collapse of the four-storey building at Dr Zahir Hussain Busty, commonly known as Butcher Busty, has not been pinpointed.

Engineers said the Darjeeling residents must cultivate the habit of involving experts in constructions. "For most people, repair is only about applying a fresh plaster over cracks. Repair should involve identifying internal defects and strengthening the column and beams through retrofitting and jacketing of beams and columns," said Rai.

An architect said: "The most important thing during construction is to have a soil test done so that one has knowledge of the earth's capacity to bear weight. Designs can be accordingly framed. One should dig at least five feet for foundation and in some cases, it should be seven feet deep. Even then, if one does not find a firm base, techniques like combined columns should be used for weight distribution," he added.

There are various procedures and rules in place for constructions but municipality officers said hardly anyone followed them.

"The building plan has to be drawn up by an authorised surveyor who is empanelled with the municipality. Either the building owner or surveyor should submit reports to the civic body regularly on the construction process but that is hardly followed. Construction should not be undertaken on slopes steeper than 30 degrees and there should be proper ratio of materials. But no one seems to be taking these issues seriously," said Rai.

Ideally, a bag of cement should be mixed with one-and-a-half bags of sand and three bags of coarse aggregate.

"Masons have their own set formula. The ratio of water and cement mix also varies depending on constructions. The column designs have to be different for different constructions but the standard practice in the hill is to either use four 16mm or 12mm rods for a column," the architect said.
Metro went around Darjeeling to find out about precarious buildings in the hill town.

On Friday night, a four-storeyed building collapsed, killing seven people in an area known as Butcher Busty in Darjeeling
In the picture above, a green house standing on Robertson Road has a narrow base because of lack of land, but a much wider terrace.

An engineer said this was a sure recipe for disaster as the upper floors had no support of a base.


Building Collapse in Darjeeling, 3 Deaths, 7 Rescued, 7 Missing

9:52 AM
TRAGEDY STRIKES DARJEELING: Building Collapse Causes 3 Deaths, 7 Rescued, 7 Missing

Darjeeling 22nd July 2016 Around 10:30 PM last night, people in Dr. Zakir Hussain Busty (locally known as Butcher Busty) below Lower Masjid, were jolted by a tremor. They assumed it was an earthquake. On coming out of their houses, they were left in a state of confusion and shock to see one of the buildings in their neighbourhood turned into rubble.

As the truth dawned on them, that a building had collapsed, local people rushed to rescue those who were trapped.
The building owned by Mr. Ashok Chettri was said to be old, and the owner had been residing in Siliguri for quite some time now and had rented it to others.

The building - a 4 storey one – housed 3 families.

Frantic efforts by locals ensured that three people, two women and an elderly men were rescued within 30 minutes of the collapse.
However, they would have to dig in deep to rescue others.
Building Collapse in Darjeeling, 3 Deaths, 7 Rescued, 7 Missing
Photo - Building Collapse in Darjeeling, 3 Deaths, 7 Rescued, 7 Missing
As the night proceeded, Darjeeling MLA Mr. Amar Rai arrived on the scene and after seeing the extent of devastation he called Darjeeling DM and Army officials requesting rescue teams. Along with Firebrigade, Police and local civil defense volunteers the rescue efforts was mounted, resulting in safe recovery of four more individuals.

In about two hours Army rescue team also arrived, sadly due to the congestion of the road their heavy equipments could not be brought to the disaster site. As the army took charge hope ensued, but sadly they so far they have only been able to recover four dead bodies, all of the Pariyar family.
The rescue efforts are being undertaken with Army, Firebrigade, Police, Civil Defense, Municipal Engineers and local volunteers, and we hope that the rest of the people are rescued soon.

Please keep the missing in your prayers.

Dead: Rajesh Pariyar, Anita Pariyar, Amrita Pariyar
Missing: Naseem Kashmiri, Allaudin, Zamila, Sabina Kashmira + two guests (name unknown at this point)

Rescued so far: Salam Saha, Ghulam Saha , Sabina Khatoon, Sabana Khatoon she is expecting too , Anjali 9yrs, Ifa 2 yrs, Faiz 7 years

Sriju Bal Tamang for TheDC

Structures along Teesta River demolished by Darjeeling district administration

11:21 AM
Thirteen structures along Teesta demolished to avert mishaps

DARJEELING 21 Jul 2016 The Darjeeling district administration today  demolished 13 structures comprising houses and shops along the Teesta  River at 29th Mile on National Highway 10 under Kalimpong sub- division.

With rainfall battering the hills incessantly, the Teesta is flowing above the danger zone and has damaged several parts of the protection wall constructed by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to put the lives of 29th Mile residents in danger.

This morning, the district administration used bulldozers to raze the 13 structures located on the riverside. “Thirteen houses were demolished at 29th Mile this morning. Only recently two such structures were partially washed away by the raging river. And considering the danger to life, the structures have been demolished,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava. He added, “The demolition was done peacefully with most affected families even helping when the dismantling team reached the spot.”
Structures along Teesta River demolished by Darjeeling district administration
Teesta Bazar - Pic via Escape Enchanted
The NHPC has two hydel projects – Teesta Low Dam Project (132 mw) aRambi and Teesta Low Dam Project (160 mw) at Kalijhora. The 29th Mile area, which is a forest village along NH-10, has been facing the direct impact of the Rambi project that was commissioned in 2013.

According to the district administration, the evicted families have already been compensated by the NHPC but they chose to hang on to their houses. “Of the 13, the NHPC compensated 11 families two years ago while the remaining two refused the compensation. At that time it was agreed they would move from the area,” said Srivastava.

According to the district administration, the 13 houses at 29th Mile was constructed on forest land and compensation ranging from Rs 6 lakh to Rs14 lakh had been provided to the families. Asked about the rehabilitation of the displaced families, the DM said,

“As per our information, all these families have alternative houses constructed from the compensation amount received. Of the 13 houses, almost none had any furniture and it appears these families were just holding on to the structures despite receiving compensation.”

Apparently, Meena Sherpa, who owned two of the structures, had refused to accept the compensation offered saying it was not adequate. Today, watching her house and shops being dismantled, she said, “I had refused the compensation offered because it was not adequate. I have been living here since our grandfather’s time. I had asked for a week’s time but my property was razed to the ground without I being offered any settlement. I will meet the district administration regarding this.”

Manoj Chhetri, whose house-cum-restaurant was also demolished, was nostalgic but took solace from the fact that he had been compensated. “It is sad when the house you are living in for years gets demolished. But at least we have received the compensation with which we can build another home nearby,” he said.

NHPC officials expressed satisfaction and said that they were open to providing compensation to those who had refused earlier. “A committee was formed and a survey and assessment conducted to provide compensation as per approved norms. Two of them had refused but they can contact us and we will certainly offer them adequate compensation,” said NHPC senior manager Tingal Kispot.

Torrential rain continues to create havoc and numerous stretches of NH-10 and NH-55 linking Sikkim and Darjeeling have been hit by landslides. Landslides occurred on the Pankhabari road at Chilauney Dhura, Rati Khola road at Garidhura and Rohini road at Kargil Dara under Kurseong sub-division. The other places included Kali Mandir near Sevoke and between Karmatar and Jorethang in Sikkim but they were cleared for vehicular movement later in the day. In the last 24 hours, rainfall recorded in Kurseong was 102.4mm, Darjeeling84.2mm, Kalimpong 40mm and Siliguri 138mm.


3 killed in Lodhoma Darjeeling landslide

8:06 AM
DARJEELING 20 Jul 2016 Three members of a family in Lodhoma under Darjeeling sub-division were killed this morning after their house got swept away by flowing debris triggered by a landslide. Another family escaped by a whisker but their property got destroyed completely in the incident that occurred in the wee hours.

The mishap brought back memories of the grim tragedy at Tingling in Mirik a year ago when 19 people of Limbu Gaon were killed by a landslide triggered by more than 48 hours of incessant rainfall.

The death toll in today’s landslide may have been lower, but like the Tingling incident, the houses of the two families at Fenchaytar Village in Gairigaon under Lodhoma GP were located on a steep slope, aggravating the damage.

The Darjeeling district administration confirmed the deaths and said help and relief materials had been arranged. “Three persons died in a landslide that occurred at Fenchaytar village at four this morning. Their bodies were recovered around 5.30am and sent immediately for post-mortem to the Darjeeling district hospital. Relief materials to another family residing in the area, whose house was damaged, have been provided and they have been shifted to a relief centre nearby,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava.
3 killed in Lodhoma Darjeeling landslide
3 killed in Lodhoma Darjeeling landslide
The bodies of Mann Kumar Limbu (33), a daily wage earner, his wife Premkit (25), and son Anish (8) were recovered from under a huge pile of debris. Prima facie, it appears the three were sleeping when the killer debris covered the house and swept it away with tremendous force.

Dipen Limbu, a local resident, said, “There were only two houses where the accident occurred; the other houses are located at some distance away. We came to know about the tragedy only later. Locals searched for the bodies and found them huddled in a single room. It seems they were sleeping at the time of the landslide.”

Lok Bahadur Limbu and his family who live nearby miraculously escaped death even though half of his house was damaged by the landslide. Lok Bahadur had gone out to drink tea while his father and son were sleeping in the room that was not touched by the landslide. “Call it luck or God’s will, but Lok Bahadur and his family escaped sure death. He was outside the house while his son and father were in another room,” Dipen said.

Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chief executive and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung reached Fenchaytar village to interact with the affected and took stock of the situation. “Our party president visited the area and talked to the affected. The GTA is planning to build a house for Lok Bahadur and relief materials have been provided to them. They will be shifted to a relief camp at the local community hall,” said Prakash Gurung, the GTA Sabahsad of the area.

Meantime, the district administration said debris and rock accumulated on various stretches of NH-10 - the arterial link that connects Sikkim with the rest of the country and part of which falls in Darjeeling district – had been cleared and vehicular movement resumed. The Darjeeling hills are witnessing heavy to very heavy rainfall over the past three-four days and the district administration is on high alert. Rainfall recorded in the past 24 hours in Darjeeling was 87.9mm while in Kalimpong it was 39.9mm, Kurseong 57.9mm and Siliguri 82.40mm.


Waterlogging in Siliguri, yellow alert on the banks of Teesta river

9:10 AM
Siliguri, June 24: Incessant rainfall led to waterlogging today in areas in and around Siliguri, including New Jalpaiguri railway station, and a rise in the water levels of a number of rivers in north Bengal.

The downpour forced the state irrigation department to issue a yellow alert (primary alert) in the unprotected areas on either bank of the Teesta river this afternoon.

The data available with the department show the Teesta is flowing close to the danger mark at Sevoke and near the Teesta Bridge on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town.

Siliguri received 187.50mm rain in 24 hours till 8am today, leaving NJP, Santoshinagar, Shaktigarh, Champasari, Fogdoibari, Hatiaganga, Milanpally, Ashoknagar and Rajendranagar, areas located outside town, under water.

The exit point and a major portion of NJP station are under knee-deep water. Although water accumulated on the tracks, there was no disruption in rail traffic.

"We fail to understand what the railways and the state government have been doing. There is no proper drainage to let water flow out of the parking area and the exit point at NJP. In case of heavy rains, areas outside the station get marooned. Considering the importance of the station and movement of thousands of passengers everyday, we believe the railways and the state government should look at the issue and take necessary steps to avert water-logging," said Rajat Dutta, a schoolteacher who reached NJP from Calcutta by train this morning.
Waterlogging in Siliguri, yellow alert  on the banks of Teesta river
Waterlogging in Siliguri, yellow alert  on the banks of Teesta river
Rivers like the Mahananda, Jaldhaka, Raidak I and II and the Torsha are also on the rise because of rains in the sub-Himalayan north Bengal.

The India Meteorological Department has forecast rain measuring between 70mm and 200mm at isolated places in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts in the next couple of days.

Via Telegraph

Sikkim - bridge collapsed by rain, Road to Mangan, Chungthang, Lachung, Lachen closed

7:23 PM
Sikkim 17th May 2016: Highway road blocked at Rel khola (Ri chu) after Iron Bridge swept away by heavy rainfall approx 99 tourist vehicles which reached Mangan town and maximum back towards east district from Mangan, North district. More than 200 tourists which have stranded at Chungthang, approx 60 tourists at Lachung and 50 tourists at Lachen those who reached yesterday evening on May 16th have stranded as there is no possibilities of trans-shipment today on May 17th as the river water is flowing over slide area and its very risky for commuters, till now no casualties reported.

The Police department staff and district administration headed by SDM Chungthang and Mangan(HQ), up-Adhyaksha(N) with GREF staff have reached the spot and have directed travelers not take any risky steps and vehicles should not ply at night time at risky zones and district administration will try to setup temporary log bridge by tomorrow for transshipment, they informed. All tourism stake holders are requested to contact their standard tourist for safely evacuations informed vice President, TAAS.
Sikkim - bridge collapsed by rain, Road to Mangan, Chungthang, Lachung, Lachen closed
Sikkim - bridge collapsed by rain, Road to Mangan, Chungthang, Lachung, Lachen closed
Similarly, Gangtok via Phodong closed till tomorrow as the BRO has decided to dismantle old Bakcha Bridge.

As SDM Dzongu, informed that the road conditions as of now at lower Dzongu and upper Dzongu, North Sikkim is clear for traffic by afternoon which was blocked by fell down tree due to wind storm. However commuters are requested not ply their vehicles late night for safety reasons.


Darjeeling Fire, Fire Brigade, Municipality and the Shocking Incompetence

9:08 AM

Writes: Bicky Sharma

A few days back – on the night of 12th April – Darjeeling witnessed an unfortunate case of man-made disaster in the centre of its heart, Daroga Bazar, when a fire burnt down a lot of smiles and hopes with it.

This was definitely not the "first of its kind" of an incident in our town that we'd be surprised – perhaps, this was definitely not the first time that the flames showed all its might to put some lives on hold, and this was definitely not the only time that the sincere labour to earn their bread and butter was denied, but then it had enough intensity to make us think amidst the sniveling and the sorrow. Three business stores and an equal number of godowns were gutted down to ashes, as people watched the event unfold before them quite helplessly.

I, personally, have walked through the lanes of Daroga Bazaar throughout my student life, and was an exclusive customer to one of the stationery stores – Metro – that faced the fury, and getting to know about the catastrophe, the faces of the people working in the store started flashing in my mind.
A twinge of guilt, and not sympathy, struck my heart as we have failed them and similarly one day, we will be failed too. The ever helpful and hardworking people are enduring such a misfortune today, but then there are hundreds of other such people around the town, the same number of similar construction exist. It wasn’t the first of its kind of incident, and it may not be the last, but are we ready to face and fight such accidents in future? And if in case such accidents occur again, who all are to be blamed? Who will own up, and take the responsibility?
 Darjeeling ablaze on Metro bookstore line
 Darjeeling ablaze on Metro bookstore line

Obviously, there must be someone we can hold responsible for all this, or do we wait to see the entire town razed to ground?

We live in a land of mercy. We live in a knife-edge situation, and have nowhere to walk but straight, and even a slight turmoil and we are in deep trench. We live in a constant fear of facing several calamities like landslides and earthquakes, and just pray that we pass through them safely. Prayer and complaints have become a common man’s remedy to all the predicaments.

Devoid of proper planning or safety measures against the unforeseen circumstances, we can just depend upon God’s mercy for our safety. We are fortunate that God has his eyes upon us and that we are still safe, but with the prevailing administration and the governance system, if only for once God were to turn a blind eye on us, we would become the most helpless people ever.

Perhaps, we will never find solace under any government and the kind of (mis)governance we are habituated to. Adding to the natural disasters, now we have a new challenge to face, prepare ourselves to fight against the fires that seem to erupt anywhere and everywhere across the town.
It is not a point of concern for just Darjeeling, but an alarm for the entire stretch of hills.

As I mentioned before, it wasn’t the first fire in the town, several other old structures around the town have already perished to the flames including the recent blaze in Dowhill School of Kurseong.

Though there is no definite trend in the conflagration, one has enough reasons to question the cause despite all the rhetoric. Was it really an accident, or a deliberate act of sabotage?

People living around the place of incident have reportedly complained that their homes where latched from outside while the fire took place, and they also complained about the smell of kerosene at the spot. The fire, prima facie, looked well orchestrated. Considering all the facts at disposal, one can deduce that the fire was a part of a full-proof conspiracy. But then, if it is a conspiracy, who do we put the blame on? I would rather not give it a political angle as no party or organisation would undertake such an act of suicide just a few days before the elections.

So, for now, let us stick to the theory of drug addicts causing all the fuss, the closest of the theories till now, and let the police and law take their course.

The administration of Darjeeling happens to be one of the most slacked bodies of administrators. The people of the hills are not very demanding, and are so very busy trying to earn their bread and butter that they don’t even look at what is going around.

As far as I am concerned, The Darjeeling Municipality should share the initial blame in the affair. I highly respect our municipality chairman, and acknowledge his hard work and sense of responsibility towards the town. It was due to his effort that the fire could be controlled in time, as he tried to reach out to the water-trucks to ferry water to doze off the fire. But still, I stick to the point that the municipality somewhere has failed the people.

While the fire-fighters say that it took almost an hour for them to arrive because of the inaccessibility to the site, we must keep in mind that most of the town is connected with similar streets, roads, and pavements that would also not be accessible to the fire-fighters during such emergencies. So, are we going to wait and watch the places have no access to fire brigade and use the same excuse again and again for every other case?

A quick glance at the statistics on the safety-equipments available with the municipality shows how appalling and pathetic fire-safety measures are in our town.

While the town could boast of around 113 fire-hydrants in 1950s, there are, as of now, only 8-10 hydrants. And while most of the parts within the town were accessible previously, given the well drawn town-planning, most, if not all, part of the town, especially its interiors, are inaccessible today.
It is indeed shocking to see the utter apathy on the part of Municipal authorities, that while we have suffered so much of loss on account of fire, the municipality has not yet taken any step to install the most needed fire-hydrants around the town.
So, does it not require some thought from the officials to look into the matter with some seriousness and sincerity?

While the number of multi-storied structures in the town is rising, the place is being squeezed breathless to meet the demands of development. So much so that the fire brigade takes an hour, and, in fact, more to reach a place set ablaze in the middle of the town.

If such is the case of people living in downtown Darjeeling, do the people living in the outskirts and on the margins, even hope about their arrival in the first place?

Given the dismal state of affairs in our town, I have often wondered, is development a curse? or is the municipality not being able to give the town a system of planned-development? Or, is it that the municipality is still not prepared to manage, and sustain any development at all? Or are those running the Municipality incompetent nincompoops who should not have been elected to run the affairs of our town to vegin with?

Let us now consider the role of the fire-fighters – the people with the fire-department – a permanent job holder with the government - who get paid on a regular basis just to keep the town safe from fire and other hazards.

The realities of the fire brigade in Darjeeling are different. I recall how a house in our village had caught fire during the night, and the locals frantically tried calling the fire brigade for at least an hour, but sadly, there was no response from the other side. Finally, some guys had to run up to the fire station, and inform them about the situation in person – perhaps, waking up some of them from their deep slumber.

Such is our helplessness in emergencies like fire-breaks, it takes at least an hour to make the Fire Brigade aware of such incident, and when they finally reach the disaster-site, they happen to run out of water in the first few minutes itself!

The irony is that while they are being paid to fight fire and to keep people safe, they generally are caught off-guard and do not believe that a fire can erupt anytime and anywhere.

Actually, to be honest, the efforts of the people trying to challenge the flames with all the buckets and jerry cans is much more effective than the expertise of fire fighters.

If it was not for the prompt action of the locals, and later the municipality chairman, the fire-fighters would have watched the whole of Daroga bazaar burn down with empty water-pipes in their hands.
Most intriguing and disappointing fact in the entire case is the apparent failure of law and order in the town.

It is, in fact, absurd that some people get the courage to latch up the houses around the middle of the town during the night, and set ablaze a godown which well explains how inefficienct the law and order system is at our place.

We truly live at the mercy of God. We live amidst the fallacies, and fake promises. We live within the insecurities and fear. Our existence has now just the significance to be sorry for whatever happened and to pray that it doesn’t happen again.

So the question remains, who stands accountable to the loss of the victims?

The same fire which would keep their “chullah” running, has now decided to burn their means of living. So who is going to keep the stoves in their kitchen burning, while the cause of the fire is never ascertained?

Will the real person or organization who we can hold accountable, please stand up? please stand up?

Via TheDC

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