Shillong(Meghalaya) , June 23 : The landslides along the National Highway – 62 that connects Siju, Karukol and Baghmara from East Garo Hills and Assam has remained completely cut-off for the past six days. The restoration work has begun but going by the intensity of the damages, it will take some time before the road is open.
Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma inspected the road on Wednesday by taking a country boat for about 2 hours to reach Siju and then trek close to three hours to reach Rongdong.
He was shocked to witness the ‘unimaginable’ damages that have made the roads look like big streams in almost 12 different portions of the road in a stretch of 7-8 kms. Small streams were converted to massive streams with huge boulders along the damaged roads.
During the inspection officials informed the Chief Minister that restoration works are on but considering the massive damages to the roads, it will pose a challenge for them.
Siju, a tourism location that is known for bat caves, has also been damaged. Though there is no damage to the caves, all the tourism amenities have been destroyed. Adjoining houses to the caves have been damaged. A young woman lost her life in a landslide near Siju cave, leaving behind her 4 year old son and husband, who luckily managed to escape.
The Chief Minister handed over an ex-gratia of 4 lakh to her family at Siju and later visited Siju PHC, where four seriously injured are undergoing treatment.
Elderly people interacting with the Chief Minister at Siju said that they have never seen such heavy rains, landslides in the past 50 years. Some said that in 1964 there was a similar situation in Siju but the magnitude of damages was not as intense as this year.
They pointed to the Simsang river near Siju Cave and said that the water level was as high as 30 feet than the usual monsoon days.
The Rewak hanging bridge, the longest in the State that connects several villages on the other side of the Simsang was seen to be completely damaged. Locals say that the bridge which hangs as high as 50 feet from the normal water level was submerged and when the water receded, the hanging bridge was totally damaged.
“The infrastructure damage in the recent flash flood and landslide is very high. The Government has been making every effort to ensure that all possible help is extended,” the Chief Minister said. He informed that he is visiting the affected area in the State to personally inspect the quantum of damages.
He also said that restoring electricity in South Garo Hills has been taken up on priority and restoration works are on in full-swing.
He is likely to visit Maheskhola in South West Khasi Hills, another area, which has been completely cut off. Yesterday, 2100 kgs of relief materials were air dropped at Maheskhola by the India Air Force.
At a bank where the boat stopped along Karukol – Siju, near Balpakram National Park, the Chief Minister was told by officials who inspected the area that the water level was as high as 20 feet from the current flow. The water is still flowing above the danger level along the Simsang river, the longest in Garo Hills, which flows to Bangladesh.
The CM has been touring the rain-affected areas of the State for the past four days and has given direction to the department to ensure that restoration of roads, bridges, and water lines should be taken up. He has asked officials to provide all possible relief to the people in this hour of grief and sorrow.