Collapsed Rathikhola Bridge in Darjeeling on Wednesday.
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Newsmen Bureau

Kolkata / Siliguri, 01 July :  HEAVY overnight rain triggered a string of landslides in the mountainous Darjeeling district of West Bengal, killing at least 38 people, swamping homes, washing away highways and throwing normal life out of gear in the region famed for aromatic tea.

Army’s help has also been sought for stepped up rescue and relief efforts, North Bengal Development minister Gautam Deb said.

Torrential rain battered three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district, claiming 21 lives in Mirik alone where 13 people were also reported missing, sources in the Disaster Management Department said on Wednesday.

17 others died in Kalimpong-1 and 2, lava, Sukhia block and Gorubathan, sources said.

Twenty persons were reported injured and 15 missing at 8 Mile and 11 Mile areas in Kalimpong, sources in the border guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), who have joined in the rescue and relief efforts, said.

Landslides in 25 places in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions caused extensive damage to NH-10 and NH-55, cutting off vital road links to the region.

Massive mounds of loosened earth came hurtling down the slopes, swamping houses on hillsides. Videos showed homes perched on slopes caving in before crashing into the ravines in a heap.

In several places, rescuers were seen using bare hands to remove piles of debris looking for survivors.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed pain over the loss of lives and announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased.

He has asked Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to rush to Darjeeling to take stock of the situation. A team from NDRF is extending all possible support, Modi said.

“Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to the landslides in Darjeeling district. Condolences to the families of the deceased,” he tweeted.

“A compensation of Rs. 2 lakh from the PMNRF (Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund) would be provided to the families of the deceased,” he added.