Sikkim still cut-off from rest of country due to landslides

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Gangtok, Sep 12 (UNI) With a fresh downpour and landslides in Sikkim, the National Highway 31-A, the lifeline of the state, was again closed after being reopened for a few hours last night.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), engaged in repairing the damaged roads and bridges on the highway, allowed some trucks that imported petroleum goods for the state.

The BRO had succeeded in creating a 700-metre diversion route at Tarkhola, few kms from the border town Rangpo. Massive mudslides had recently washed a portion of the highway at Tarkhola snapping links between Sikkim with the rest of the country.

Five tankers of LPG and a truck laden with refilled gas cylinders had entered Rangpo, the gateway of Sikkim, at around 1930 hrs along with some other vehicles carrying essential commodities and hundreds of stranded commuters.

However, rainfall last night carried muds and boulders over the diversion route at Tarkhola making it difficult for the vehicles to cross it. Only 15 heavy vehicles had managed to cross the diversion route till today afternoon and proceeded towards Siliguri.

Similarly, six heavy vehicles managed to proceed towards Sikkim from the spot.

The BRO officials at the spot told UNI that the diversion route has become very dangerous after fresh slides and rains.

''We had a problem with the gradient of the slope and managed to address it for a while," said the officials.

''It is very early to say when the diversion route will be cleared,'' they said.

The road menders were trying to erect a bailey bridge along the diversion route to make am emergency exit, they added.

Traffic movement was smooth upto Melli from where vehicles could reach to Gangtok via South Sikkim.

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling directed all the departments to engage full resources to restore NH 31-A, and start relief measures.

''If the situation worsens, help will be sought from the Centre and army,'' he said.

Meanwhile, at least two people have died over the past few days due to the landslides. Hundreds of houses in several parts of the state were damaged. Inter-state vehicular traffic was also disrupted in several places.

The Chief Minister had also instructed that power, safe drinking water and essential items like gas etc should reach the affected people immediately.

The Food and Civil Supplies department informed that there was no shortage of food grains in the state.

The prices of vegetables and other commodities have continuously been rising considerably due to snapping of surface communications in the state.

UNI

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