Many people were injured, power supply was disrupted in parts of northern West Bengal and houses developed cracks as a powerful quake, epicentred in adjoining Sikkim, rocked the region on Sunday evening.
North Bengal Affairs Minister Gautam Deb said the quake triggered landslides in Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions while several patients in a nursing home in Siliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district were injured.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that as per initial reports, power supply has been disrupted in areas near Sikkim like Kalimpong of Darjeeling district, and adjoining Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts.
"One sub-station has been affected in Siliguri, disrupting power supply. Most of the areas of north Bengal, including Darjeeling district, have been lashed by overnight rains. After the quake, situation has deteriorated with landslides in Kalimpong and Kurseong," Deb said.
"The impact was more in Cooch Behar district. Jalpaiguri district has also been hit," he said shortly after an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale with its epicentre near the Sikkim-Nepal border hit the state Sunday evening,
The Darjeeling district magistrate has been asked to go to the spot to see the situation first hand, the chief minister said.
"The district magistrate of Darjeeling is already on the field assessing the situation but he may not be able to assess the whole situation right now as it is very dark out there. As Darjeeling and Kalimpong are close to the epicentre, that's why it is a bit affected as per initial reports," Banerjee said.
She said she could not contact officials of Jalpaiguri district.
"Some houses may have developed cracks in the hills, but we are still awaiting confirmation. We are constantly monitoring the situation. If anybody is trapped, then we should all work together to rescue such people. We will help each other," she said.
The chief minister said an emergency helpline (03322145486) has been started at the director general of police control room at the state secretariat, Writers' Buildings, in Kolkata.
"But there is nothing to panic. The administration is on high alert," she said.
Weather officials warned of more landslides in the Darjeeling hills following heavy rains.
"Due to heavy rainfall in Darjeeling hills, there are chances of landslides following the earthquake. There may also be aftershocks," said G.C. Debnath, director of Regional Meteorological Centre, Kolkata.
All districts have been asked to start emergency helplines.
Panic gripped Kolkata, where Durga Puja shopping was at its peak.
Shopping malls were evacuated, people rushed to the streets, and the superstitious people blew conches to ward off evil spirit.
"It was very frightful. I never had such an experience. There was an announcement on the public address system to evacuate the floor. I and my sons managed to come out fast. But there was lot of commotion at the exit gate," said a man in his late 30s who had come to a shopping mall with his two sons.
A crack developed in the police housing complex at Ultadanga in north Kolkata.