31 July 2013
The Darjeeling landslide disaster of 1950
Posted by Dave Petley
The excellent Save the Hills blog has a really interesting presentation online by Praful Rao about the landslide disaster in June1950 in Darjeeling, Northern India. The presentation is available on Authorstream and I have embedded it below:
[authorSTREAM id= 1893115_635107421450720000 pl= player by= Nubiagroup]
This Darjeeling landslide disaster appears to have been triggered by a strong rainfall event on 12th June 1950, in which 546 mm of rainfall fell. As a result, 127 people are known to have died in the landslides.
Included in the presentation are some quite wonderful photographs of the landslides, taken by Durga Das Pradhan, the majority of which appear to have been shallow failures such as this:
However, there is one case of a shallow slide that appears to have become a channelised debris flow:
And one landslide that has a rather complex morphology (take a look at the railway line):
I remember the Sikkim landslide. I was six years old and attending boarding school at Clifton Hall.
As I recall, it rained incessantly for 18 days which event, we were told, caused the landslide..
I still have vivid memories of being on The Mall, overlooking the Sikkim Valley, and seeing the enormous scar on the mountain opposite. It left a lasting impression.
We weren’t told of any fatalities, perhaps to spare our young sensibilities, but we did learn that an entire village had been swept away. Again, a lasting impression.
[Many thanks, that is really fascinating. D].
Dear Alex Shemansky,
I am studying about the Chandmari landslide in Gangtok, Sikkim,
and would love to have more information on the landslides in
Sikkim. Was there a landslide in Gangtok in 1950? Could we
please communicate? My email id is [email protected]
[Thank you, Dr. Petley. Your blog is extremely useful.]
I was also at Clifton Hall boarding school at the same time as Alex (Junior) Shemansky in 1950. My name is Maureen Hallett née Smith (I was 9 in 1950) and would love to talk to Alex and find out when the school actually closed down and find out a bit more about the landslide.
I am a citizen of Switzerland who grew up in Calcutta 1949 – 1955. We spent our holidays during monsoon time often in Darjeeling. I was 4 years old and our family had to walk from Darjeeling to the valley with the help of some “coolies” (carriers). My mother was pregnant at that time and had as a result of the physical stress a spontaneous abortion. It was a very painful experience for my parents. I myself was privileged, sitting in a huge basket on the back of a carrier.
I would be interested to hearing more testimonies from wittnesses.
Nirmala, there’s very little, if anything, that I can add.
As I said, I was only six, and all I remember, is the huge, raw scar down the hillside.
Maureen, how extraordinary that you remember me.
I’m afraid my memory is not as vivid as yours and I don’t remember your name.
But then, you were three years older than me and would have a more full recollection of people and events.
It would be a rare to pleasure to be in touch with you and share memories.
I’m not sure how this could be achieved, however.
I would suggest you google Castlewood Cottage in New Zealand where you may find something of relevance and interest.
The first picture is the one where my grandparents Mr. and Mrs. S K. Dutt’s house stood. The whole house came down in the landslide. I was in Loreto Convent that time, 9 years old.
I remember you well Junior. I was 6 when I went to Clifton Hall for one year. I think we both lived in Calcutta.
I’ve just come across your post, so forgive the delay.
You have the advantage of me, insofar as I’m afraid I don’t remember you, I’m embarrassed to admit.
Yes, I did live in Calcutta, in Karnarni Mansions, Park St.
Greetings to you, old school friend