Air fares soar in flood hit North Bengal
Darjeeling, August 16, 2017: With railways and road connectivity severely damaged owing to the flood in North Bengal and bordering Bihar, the only option left is the airways.
The onrush to avail flights has resulted in the skyrocketing of air fares.
Incessant rains coupled with spate in the rivers mainly originating in the mountains have flooded North Bengal causing immense damages. The districts of Malda, North Dinajpur, South DInajpur, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar are badly affected in the flood.
Trains from South Bengal and other parts are plying till Malda only. There is extensive damage in the tracks in the Malda - Dalkhola and Katihar- Kisangunj route. Tracks have been damaged along with railways bridges at 16 locations.
In case the weather holds and repairs could be done on a war footing then some trains would resume after 5 days stated a Railway official. A railway bridge collapsed in Karandighi in North Dinajpur further cutting off links with many parts of the country.
However a special train plied between Guwahati and Dalkhola ferrying stranded passengers on Wednesday. Hundreds of passengers are stranded in different stations waiting for services to resume.
"My father is a patient and has to travel to Kolkata for treatment every 3 months. Somehow we managed to come down from Assam but have been stuck at NJP. We are staying on the platform as we are traveling on a strict budget. We hope that the water recedes and we are able to travel to Kolkata at the earliest" stated Anjana Das, Assam.
The condition of roadways is equally bad. All the national Highways are affected with different areas submerged. 28 State Transport and private buses tried to ply from Kolkata to Siliguri but could not make it after Malda and Raigunj. Many bridges and culverts have also been damaged.
There are reports of some buses taking long detours and trying out alternative roads."I have been waiting for the past two days. It seems that there is no hope" stated Pradeep Mukherjee from Bolpur who has got stranded in Siliguri.
There are reports of overcharging too. "Some private buses are assuring passengers that they will drive them to Kolkata. They are overcharging. I have asked the district administration to keep a strict tab on the situation" stated West Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb.
The flood has left 32 persons dead in North Bengal. 1461453 have been affected by the flood.622 relief camps have been opened up.
With rail and roadways inaccessible, Airways are witnessing an unprecedented rush. "For the past few days we are having around 3000 out bound passengers. All the flights are booked to capacity" stated Rakesh Sahay, Director, Bagdogra Airport.
There are 19 out bound and 19 in bound flights from and to Bagdogra daily.
"I work in Kolkata. I had come home to Cooch Behar and suddenly the floods struck. I have to join office and was compelled to buy a flight ticket for around Rs. 15000 to Kolkata. That too there is a mad rush to procure flight tickets" stated Madhav Saha of Cooch Behar.
Usually, flight tickets to Kolkata from Bagdogra at this time of the year costs around Rs. 3500.
Price of Kolkata bound flight tickets crossed the Rs. 25000 mark on Wednesday evening.
"There are no tickets available. As air fares are dynamic they shoot up with demands increasing" stated Aditya Gupta, a ticketing agent.