Agartala/Silchar, July 17 (IANS): Surface links between the northeastern States of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram as also southern Assam and the rest of India have worsened since Sunday with massive landslides blocking a crucial national highway, and the rail services snapped three weeks ago yet to be restored, officials said.
Tracks damaged three weeks ago by landslides caused by heavy rains are yet to be restored, and "it is uncertain when the railway services would be restored in the region," Northeast Frontier Railway's (NFR) divisional railway manager Rakesh Kumar Goel told reporters Monday.
Worsening the surface communications in the same region, massive landslides occurred Sunday on the crucial National Highway No.44 linking these northeastern states with the rest of India.
A Tripura government official said heavy rains triggered the landslides, and the Assam-Agartala NH 44 has been blocked at Sonapur and Tongseng in Jaintia Hills district in eastern Meghalaya, bordering Assam, with huge boulders covering the road.
"The BRO (Border Roads Organisation) engineers and workers immediately started work to clear the debris and to restore the traffic," the official added.
Sonapur and Tongseng, about 150 km from the Meghalaya capital Shillong, is a landslide-prone area and is linked with National Highway No.40 connecting Shillong and Guwahati in Assam, the gateway to the rest of India.
"Allout efforts have been made to resume both passenger and goods train services between Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam and the rest of India by first week of next month," NFR's Goel told reporters at Haflong, the headquarters of Dima Hasao district in southern Assam.
"As the damage to tracks, bridges, tunnels and adjoining areas is so colossal, restoring railway services in the region is getting delayed."
The official said: "Over 200 people comprising engineers and railway workers led by senior officials of NFR's Lumding division are working round-the-clock to clear the debris at many places."
The main hurdle for the early resumption of the train services along these routes is tunnel No. 17, which was severely hit by the landslides on the Barail hills.
Railway services were suspended in the region June 25 following heavy rains and landslides that damaged large stretches of railway tracks, bridges, tunnels and adjoining areas in southern Assam's mountainous Dima Hasao district.
Tripura transport department secretary Kishore Ambuly quoting NF Railway authorities told IANS: "Due to intermittent and torrential rains, restoration works are getting delayed and fresh landslides are taking place in and around rocky areas."
The landslides at about 90 places, following incessant rains, have in some places washed away or damaged nearby surface roads in Dima Hasao district, about 300 km from Assam's main city Guwahati.
Over 3,500 passengers in four trains were stranded for four days at three places on a single metre-gauge rail line in the region. They were rescued by railway and district administration personnel and sent onwards to their destinations.
The Dima Hasao district is connects Tripura capital Agartala and parts of Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam with the rest of India by a single 108-year-old metre-gauge railway track.
The foundation stone for conversion of these railway tracks from metre-gauge to broad-gauge had been laid by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gouda in January 1996. The cost of the broad gauge project has now mounted to Rs.2,800 crore from Rs.648 crore in 1996.
The suspension of train services has severely hit supply of essential commodities and food grain, sending prices soaring. The region is heavily dependent on the supplies of rice, essential commodities and vital items from the other parts of India.
"The Tripura food and civil supplies department has in separate letters requested the Food Corporation of India and the union ministry of food and civil supplies to ensure immediate stocks of essentials, specially rice," an official of the Tripura government told IANS.
In June-July 2010, railway traffic was disrupted for 34 days after a 300-metre track between Harangajao and Mailongdisa, 78 km from southern Assam's main city, Silchar, was washed away by heavy landslides.