2 July 2015
Darjeeling is an area of northern India that is probably most famous for a type of fine tea. Located in the Lesser Himalaya, and heavily affected by monsoon rainfall. Landslides have long been a significant hazard in this area, although there has also been increased concern of late that poorly planned development is greatly increasing the risk. This is so substantial that Darjeeling is unusual in having a citizens’ group dedicated to raising awareness of the problem, the wonderful Save the Hills organisation. They have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the problems associated with poor slope management.
Yesterday the potential slope problems in Darjeeling came home to roost. Heavy rainfall overnight triggered a series of landslides across Darjeeling, damaging buildings and roads. The Indian Express reports at least 25 landslides across the district. The losses make grim reading:
According to officials in the state disaster management department, 22 deaths occurred in Mirik, where 13 people were also reported missing. The remaining 17 died in Kalimpong, Lava, Sukhia and Gorubathan areas, they said. Twenty persons were reported injured and 15 missing at 8 Mile and 11 Mile areas in Kalimpong, sources said, adding that extensive damage has occurred to NH-10 and NH-55.
The largest event appears to have occurred at Tingling village near to Mirik:
Google Earth does have a Tingling Tea Garden marked, so it is presumably one of the two adjacent villages:
Judging by this image from AFP, this appears to have been a highly mobile flow type landslide:
There is a full set of photos of the landslides on the Darjeeling Chronicle Facebook site, but please be careful as some are very graphic and quite disturbing. Unfortunately, overnight there were further landslides as the heavy rainfall continued, and there are some suggestions that the confirmed losses might now amount to 40 people.
I have no doubt that Save the Hills will provide a full account of the landslides in Darjeeling in due course. Yesterday they published some detail about the rainfall that triggered the landslides. They reported that at that point Kalimpong had received 226 mm of rainfall in a six hour period. And as Praful Rao has written:
“The worst part is we have at least 3 months of rainfall ahead.”