Showing posts with label disaster news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disaster news. Show all posts

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

Darjeeling‬ - Fire guts shops in heart of ‪the town (Daroga Bazaar)

9:48 AM
A sudden blaze late at night in the heart of Darjeeling town completely destroyed three shops and an equal number of godowns, raising fears of arson among residents of the area.

The shops included two apparel stores and a bookstore, and the three godowns were located below them. Located on BM Chatterjee Road, popularly known as Daroga Bazaar, the establishments were totally gutted by the fire. Although there was no loss of life, goods worth lakhs of rupees were destroyed.

The three shops and godowns along with four other neighbouring stores dealt in clothing and stationery and are housed in ‘P’ Building, a two-storey structure owned by the Darjeeling municipality. The building is partly wooden and partly concrete.

According to locals, the fire started around 1.30am on Wednesday morning from a store where furniture items had been kept. Six fire tenders were pressed into service, and with help from the locals, the blaze was brought under control around 6:00am. “We managed to douse the fire only by six in the morning. Water was available but the congestion and narrowness of the approach road obstructed smooth execution of work. Fortunately, we managed to contain the fire and it did not spread to adjacent structures. We are yet to ascertain the cause though,” said Bharat Lama, and officer with the Darjeeling Sadar fire station.
Fire guts shops in heart of ‪Darjeeling‬ town
Fire guts shops in heart of ‪Darjeeling‬ town
Meanwhile, residents of ‘C’ Building, located just 15 feet below ‘D’ Building, have alleged the fire was an act of arson that was actually targeted at their building. The dilapidated ‘C’ Building is made of wood and tin sheets and is more than 100 years old. The municipality has leased it to 50 families.
“We heard a huge explosion that shook our rooms. Fearing an earthquake, we tried to get out of our house, but surprisingly the door was latched from outside. We had to break the glass pane and unlock the door,” said Bikash Bhitrikotey, one of the residents of ‘C’ Building. Echoing him, another resident named Lhamin Sherpa said, “How come were the doors of our rooms latched from outside? The door of the furniture godown was open so late in the night and we could smell kerosene oil everywhere. Hence, we strongly suspect it was a deliberate plan to demolish our building.”

Following the April 2015 earthquake and continuous aftershocks, the civic body carried out a survey of old buildings that included the ‘C’ Building. It had decided to dismantle the existing structure and build a four-storey building. However, the project is yet to start. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior municipality official said discussions had failed with the residents of ‘C’ Building due to which the new structure project had to be shelved. “We had several rounds of talks with the residents. They wanted not only rehabilitation but also livelihood means as the building houses both residential and commercial spaces. Since we did not have such provisions, we decided against going ahead with the project,” he said.

Darjeeling Municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai visited the accident spot as soon as he was informed and said a report would be submitted to the state government while and an inquiry launched to look into the allegations. “A survey and assessment of the damage will be conducted and submitted to the government at the earliest,” he said.

Darjeeling SP Amit Javalgi said, “The fire started from one of the godowns located below the shops, but we do not know the cause at this point in time. Incidents of arson and sabotage usually do not occur here but we will conduct an investigation all the same.”


Fire in Darjeeling town - all you need to know

9:15 AM
13th April 2016 Its very sad to report that the part of Darjeeling town was once again engulfed in fire early in the morning today. Following are thing that is all you need to know which has come out of the event till now.

1.Fire Breaks Out At Shyam Brothers Line Darjeeling
Fire broke out at Shyam Brothers line in Darjeeling Town which initially engulfed two shops completely - Metro Book store and Dullaram  have been burned down almost 80%. According to locals, the fire broke out at 2 AM and despite informing, the fire-brigade arrived late at the scene, after an hour to douse the flames.
Fire Breaks Out At Shyam Brothers Line Darjeeling
Fire Breaks Out At Shyam Brothers Line
2.Deliberate Sabotage Allege Locals
Residents of C-building which is near the P-building that caught fire in Darjeeling town today have alleged that they could not get out of their houses as someone had locked their door from outside. Residents claimed that they couldn't get out, until an individual broke his window and managed to get out and open everyone's door.
Deliberate Sabotage Allege Locals
3.Fire Spread From Furniture Godown Say Locals
Locals have alleged that the fire which engulfed P-building and parts of Metro bookstore line started from a furniture godown and spread rapidly. Even though locals fought the fire bravely with buckets of  water, they could not help save these properties.
Fire in Darjeeling town - all you need to know
Fire Spread From Furniture Godown Say Locals
4.Fire Tankers Run Out of Water - Municipal Chairman Comes to Rescue
Once again the fire tankers were without water in Darjeeling, and had it not been for the Municipal Chairman Mr. Amar Rai the fire would have become worse.
Fire Tankers Run Out of Water - Municipal Chairman Comes to Rescue
Fire Tankers Run Out of Water - Municipal Chairman Comes to Rescue
After the initial tanker doused some flames it ran out of water and there was no alternative. Municipal Chairman Mr. Rai then called up all the water tankers that ferry water to town and requested them to assist in dousing the fire. He also requested help from Kurseong fire-brigade.

Thanks to the timely intervention of local residents and Mr. Rai the flames are now under control.

With inputs from TheDC

Hailstorm, Malgovernance, and Indifferent State – How Safe Are We?

9:38 AM
Writes Shailendra M Pradhan for TheDC

March 31st, 2016, will go down in the collective memory for two, or possibly three, reasons: hailstorm in Darjeeling, the tragedy in Kolkata caused by the collapse of under-construction bridge, and, of not lesser interest to a cricketing nation like ours, the defeat of India in T20 World Cup to Windies, despite Virat’s heroics. Of the previous two, the tragedy in Kolkata claimed more than 30 lives, while many were fear trapped under the rubble of under-construction overpass for hours and, even, days.

The hailstorm in Darjeeling, however, evoked two contradictory responses. First, it came and was received as a pleasant surprise by both the locals and tourists who, denied of the snow in the winters since 2008, were quick to relish in the blanket of almost 6-7 inches of hailstorm. Second, given the timing of the hailstorm, many, especially the farmers and agriculturists in rural Darjeeling, and the planters in tea gardens, feared a loss to their output and productivity, which, as a matter of investigation, deserve more time and research. In both the cases of hailstorm and bridge collapse, the failure of the administration to respond and rescue the people has, however, become more apparent.
Hailstorm, Malgovernance, and Indifferent State – How Safe Are We?
Perhaps, in case of the tragedy in Kolkata, April Fool’s Day came a day before to the state administration, and much before the assembly elections to the Trinamul Congress-govt which has come under scathing criticisms from the opposition, but more importantly, from the people because of its decisions to push through the completion of the bridge in a haphazard manner, much ahead of its scheduled deadline in November this year. Whether or not the tragedy will involve any political cost for the ruling dispensation under TMC is best left to scrutiny once the election results are out.

For now, it would be pertinent to introspect on the administrative response to the plight and hardship of the people caused in the wake of hailstorm.

Disasters and Administration in Darjeeling: An Uneasy Relationship?

Darjeeling, famous for its 3 Ts – tea, tourism, and toy-train, is also equally notorious for its disasters. The landslides in Mirik and Kalimpong in July last year resulted in the death of more than 40 lives. Similarly, the cyclone Aila in 2009 created havoc in different pockets of Darjeeling hills, and disrupted normal life for days together. Given its location in Lesser Himalaya, Darjeeling is prone to landslides, earthquakes, and various other natural hazards. The response of the govt. to these disasters has, however, remained disappointing, and of little help and assistance to the people.

The hailstorm in Darjeeling only deepened our fear of insensible and ill-prepared administration when it was caught completely off-guard to deal with such emergencies. While the thunder-shower and hailstorm lasted for a little more than half an hour, the immediate hardship experienced by the people will remain with them for times to come – the traffic was thrown out of gear for large part of the day; the people, travelling to and from Darjeeling, could not reach their destination on time; and, the students made home – with a starving stomach with nothing to eat for hours – from their schools very late in the night due to unmoving traffic. In the absence of Civil Defence personnel, who are mostly responsible for rescue and relief operations in any hazard situations, the people themselves had to negotiate and make their way through layers and layers of hailstorm.

In fact, the inability of both the district administration and Darjeeling Municipality to deploy even the basic snow-removal equipments and tools such as snowplow, wovel, and blower to clear off the roads highlight the insensitivity of the govt. to the plights of the people in disaster-situations. Unsurprisingly, the people took on themselves to help each other from lending a hand to push the vehicles trapped in hail-covered road to offering teas and biscuits to the starving travelers by the locals. And, while the tourists and locals displayed strong camaraderie in this hour of hardship, the administration remained ignorant of its own shortcomings.

Smart-Phones – But Not-So-Smart Administration!

Better communications can warn the people of the impending disasters, and help them to better prepare and mitigate during their occurrences. The timely evacuation of millions of people in the face of approaching Phailin, known to be the fiercest cyclone to hit coastal Andhra and Odisha in recent times, is perhaps the most glaring example of how information and communication can help avert any major disaster. The boom in the Information and Technology industry (IT, hereafter), and the promptness at which the information can be collected and made available at the touch of one’s phone-screen can improve our preparedness level in disaster mitigation. One of the biggest failures of the successive govts in West Bengal has been its inability to fine-tune its administration and personnel to the prospects available in IT sector – in other words, the coming of smart-phones in the markets in Bengal has not been accompanied by equally smart and technology-oriented local administration. As a result, the people remain deprived of the information on weather-forecasts and impending risks, which if timely relayed as text-messages or calls, can save them from many hardships.

The inability of the state disaster management authority, which is replete with time-consuming bureaucratic process and corruption, and district administration to communicate and warn the people of the impending disasters pierce the very idea of smart-cities which are disaster and risk resilient. In case of hailstorm in Darjeeling, the district administration not only failed to make use of the information available with the metrological department for its own preparedness, but also showed laxity in relaying them to the people. It is a sad fact that the district administration has not been able to capitalize on the smart-phones available with the people in Darjeeling, let alone set-up and strengthen its communication technologies for early-warning of any disaster or weather-related information.

Safety and Social Responsibility: The Missing Link?

When the news of hailstorm in Darjeeling made to social network sites such as Facebook on TheDC, Darjeeling Times, and other local news pages, the people were busy “liking”, responding, or sharing their feelings on possibly every news and photographs related to the event. To the tourists in the town, but also to the locals, Darjeeling, had, perhaps lived up to its expectation as the indisputable “Queen of Hill Stations” in India. Of the many stories on hailstorm that made it to national newspapers and online news portals the following morning, one small bit related to the damages in one of the most prestigious schools in Darjeeling, the Loreto Convent – the roof of its basketball court had apparently collapsed. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The incident, however, puts a big question mark on the safety and reliability of our infrastructures in various schools and institutions: how safe are our infrastructures to withstand hazards like earthquakes and hailstorms? Do we have enough regulatory institutions to ensure that safety-norms and laws are abided and observed? Are we sensitive to our environment and our safety?

Darjeeling can, perhaps, take pride in being the oldest municipality in India, built way back in 1853, with British concerned about the nitty-gritty of building a safe and habitable place on the lines of its own towns in London: building bye-laws, adequate drainage system, and strong road and railway lines. Most of these have either been modified or replaced by new laws and norms, and infrastructures that are apparently better suited to deal with various challenges of our times such as population growth and urbanisation. The safety and the well-being of the people, however, have been compromised in the process, and Darjeeling, as it is today, remains one of the most neglected and vulnerable hill towns in India.

In our collective capacity, we should remind ourselves of the disasters that are in making, largely because of our own insensitivity to the environment and nature – the dumping of our waste almost anywhere and everywhere, building of our houses and other infrastructures almost anywhere and everywhere, even in the most vulnerable and hazard-prone areas, and little or no concern for public property and goods.

The recent hailstorm, despite being largely harmless, should serve as a warning to our representatives, policy-makers, builders, and, above all, to ourselves on the need to introspect on the pace and pattern of our development.

Via TheDC

Darjeeling Hailstorm - Tourists stroll in icy streets; Loreto basketball court roof collapses

7:44 AM
Darjeeling, March 31: Darjeeling was covered in white with the hill town experiencing an unprecedented bout of hailstorm at noon today.

Hailstone accompanied by a strong drizzle that lasted for nearly an hour from 11.45am had the town covered in more than four inches of ice.

It had last snowed here in 2008 and even though hailstones were not as soothing as snowfall, an icy Darjeeling was greeted with much enthusiasm by local residents and tourists alike. <>The scene was like a snow-covered Darjeeling.Saha and his friends were stuck in a massive traffic jam near the district magistrate' office along 18 Lebong Cart Road. Hailstorms occur when there is moisture in the air and temperature soars high. Walking became a Herculean task mainly through uphill paths.
Victoria falls covered with hailstones in Darjeeling on 31st march 2016
Victoria falls covered with hailstones in Darjeeling on 31st march 2016
Tea planters were concerned about the damage to first flush.

Sandeep Mukherjee, the principal advisor to the Darjeeling Tea Association, said: "Hailstones at this time will definitely affect the first flush. We are, however, still collecting reports of the damage from different places."

The first flush plucking starts from February-end and continues till April. First flush constitutes around 15-20 per cent of the total annual tea production and commands highest price and is suited for export. Darjeeling produces around 8 million kg of made-tea annually.
The roof of Loreto basketball court (below) was destroyed in the hailstorm
on Thursday. Pictures by Suman Tamang
Sources at the Indian Meteorological Department in Calcutta said there was a forecast of rainfall and thunder-squall across north Bengal in the next few days and hailstorm in Sikkim. "Like it happened in Darjeeling today, there is a forecast of similar hailstorm in Sikkim in the next few days. There was isolated rain in some areas of north Bengal today," said an IMD source.

While Siliguri received rain today, there was a bout of hailstorm in Fulbari.

Via Telegraph

Darjeeling receives heavy hailstorm

5:13 PM
Very heavy hailstorm witnessed in Darjeeling town which was accompanied by wind and rain. Hailstones in the size of goldballs  battered roofs, trees, vehicles and people alike. Most of the places in the town received heavy hailstorm coupled with rain today. People got worried about electricity connections and transportation.

In the Morning, it was clear and sunny day in Darjeeling town but in the afternoon, it was a surprise when Darjeeling received season's first hail storm. The non stop Hailstorm is speculated to be 12 inches thick in some of the places.

The hailstorm have now finally stopped turning the hill town all white. Rahul Jha, a local resident, shared his experience on horrific hailstorm: "I haven't seen such a crazy hailstorm in my life." Soon People were out  playing with the hailstone, throwing it at others. Tourists and locals were seen taking photos at Chowrasta following the hailstorm. Spectacular sight of Darjeeling covered in hailstones... a sight many yearn for but a cause of many hardships for the residents..Will hit the tea plantations real bad.
Chowrasta in Darjeeling Hailstorm  31st March 2016
Chowrasta in Darjeeling Hailstorm  31st March 2016
Meanwhile, the vehicular movement has been widely affected in and around the town, making it difficult for the drivers to negotiate the hailstorm-filled roads.

Here are some of the photos of today's  hailstorm in Darjeeling

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