Shillong: The restoration work along the National Highway–62, which was completely cut-off for the past six days due to landslides, has begun on war footing. The NH-62 connects Siju, Karukol and Baghmara from East Garo Hills and Assam.

The restoration work, however, will take time before the road is open for commuters due to the intensity of the damages.

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.

Sangma expressed shock at the ‘unimaginable’ damages that he said made the roads look like big streams in almost 12 different parts of the road along a 7-km stretch. Small streams were converted to massive streams with huge boulders along the damaged roads.  

Siju, a tourist 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. Houses adjoining the caves have also 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. Sangma handed over an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the family at Siju and later visited Siju PHC, where four seriously injured are undergoing treatment.

Siju elders, while interacting with the CM, said 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 Meghalaya that connects several villages on the other side of the Simsang, was completely damaged. Locals say the bridge 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,” Sangma said. He informed that he is visiting the affected area 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.

Sangma is likely to visit Maheskhola in South West Khasi Hills, another area which has been completely cut off. 2100 kg of relief materials were air dropped at Maheskhola by the India Air Force on Wednesday.

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 Chief Minister has been touring the rain-affected areas of Meghalaya for the past four days and has given direction to the department to ensure that the restoration of roads, bridges, and water lines be taken up. He has asked officials to provide all possible relief to the people in this hour of grief and sorrow.

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