Kolkata, West Bengal: At least 30 people are dead and nearly 20 missing in multiple landslides in West Bengal's Darjeeling following heavy rains in the hills. Road connectivity to Sikkim has also been cut off due to landslides on National Highway 10, which connects it to the plains.
At 7 pm today, chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted saying, "28 bodies have been recovered from landslide site. Post-mortems of 27 completed & handed over to the families for last rites. Rescue operations will resume early tomorrow morning as it is difficult in hill conditions in dark."
Rescue teams from the Sashastra Seema Bal, the National Disaster Management Authority and the National Disaster Response have been pressed into service.
Ms Banerjee has rushed to Darjeeling today, as did Union minister for home affairs Kiren Rijiju. Both the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister have announced compensation to the victims' next of kin.
The Mirik area was the worst hit. About 40 km downhill from Darjeeling town, at least 22 people died when a landslide swept away a village here. Another six people there are still missing.
Also affected, Kalimpong where at least six people were killed. Rohini, the main road connecting the Darjeeling hills to the plains, was blocked for several hours today, affecting rescue and relief.
Not only Darjeeling, it also completely cut off Sikkim whose main link to the plains, National Highway 10, has been blocked by landslides for the last 10 days.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to next of kin of victims and despatched Mr Rijiju to Darjeeling this evening.
Ms Banerjee lamented the loss of lives and has announced compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the next of kin of those dead.
At least 2,000 people have been rescued and sheltered in 10 camps set up by the state government. Rescue and relief remain a huge challenge, given the forecast of rain.