Friday, September 23, 2011

Quake damages 2 Teesta project sites

[We have no news from our friends in Sikkim, but hope they and their
families are safe. International Rivers]

Quake damages 2 Teesta project sites
Sushanta Talukdar, The Hindu
MANGAN (SIKKIM), September 21, 2011

16 people killed, several injured; headrace tunnel, dam and tunnels are

Sunday's earthquake, which left a trail of destruction in Sikkim, has
caused massive damage to some structures at two of the five project
sites of the 1,200-megawatt hydro-power project in the upper reaches of
the Teesta river. It claimed the lives of 16 workers and officials and
caused injuries to several workers.

But Teesta Urja Limited, the company that is building the
Rs.10,000-crore project, said no damage was done to any of the tunnels
or the dam. Senior Deputy General Manager Mukul Jain told The Hindu that
landslips triggered by the 6.8-magnitude earthquake caused massive
damage to office buildings, workers' colonies, tents and approach roads
at the two sites. However, the headrace tunnel bringing water from the
dam site to the powerhouse, the dam and the tunnels were intact.

Mr. Jain said a number of workers who were inside the tunnel were safe,
and those who died or were injured were working outside the tunnels.

The project was nearing completion, and most of the construction work
was in the final stages, he said.

However, extensive damage at the two sites, coupled with the loss of
lives, has triggered panic among workers, who fled the project sites.
About 200 workers have taken shelter in a relief camp at the Singik
project site, 7 km from here

On Wednesday, there was a mass exodus of workers employed by the company
as well as contractual labourers engaged by sub-contractors. Hundreds
trekked hilly tracks and walked over the debris of blocked roads for
more than three hours from different project sites before arriving at
Mangan and boarding buses that would take them to their homes in West
Bengal, Bihar, Assam and several other States.

Mr. Jain said the right bank access road along the project site was
damaged in some locations, and the project tunnel was being used for
transporting men and material. All casualties, injured and missing
employees were accounted for.

Children orphaned

Anand Biswakarma, 25, was shocked to receive the bodies of his elder
brother Bishnu Lama and sister-in-law Sita, which started decaying in
the Mangan district hospital on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, he was waiting for the helicopter of Teest Urja Limited,
of which Bishnu was an employee, to airlift the coffins.

Anand had other worries than taking back the coffins of his brother and
sister-in-law. Back home at Joygaon in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri
district, he would have to face the Lama couple's six-year-old daughter
Kripti and three-year- old son Prajal, now left orphaned by the
earthquake. The Lama couple were crushed to death under the rubble of
the landslips triggered by the earthquake when Bishnu was at the wheels
of a mini-bus. His wife was seated behind; several workers of the
company were also on the bus, returning to their bases after taking part
in the Biswakarma puja at one of the project sites of the company.

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