Quake damages 2 Teesta project sites

Sushanta Talukdar
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Workers of the Teesta hydro power project on Wednesday abandon the dam site after 16 of their colleagues died in the earthquake that hit the north east on Sunday. — Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
Workers of the Teesta hydro power project on Wednesday abandon the dam site after 16 of their colleagues died in the earthquake that hit the north east on Sunday. — Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

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.

Mr. Jain said the company employed 1,800 directly, while 700 workers were engaged by sub-contractors.

The company also evacuated 50 workers from the Saffu project site in two helicopters to Mangan.

The company has deployed two helicopters for rescuing the affected people, including local villagers, and to take food and other relief materials to the affected areas.

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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