Monday, 19 September 2016

Flash flood in Bhutan washes away bridges, cattle

A flash flood on the Henirongchhu (Nahi stream) in Nahi gewog, Wangdue has washed away one suspension and two motorable bridges, and two vegetable sheds in Nahi gewog. The flash flood occurred on the night of September 17.

The flood left Nahi primary school and Nabisa chiwog cut off. The flash flood also affected three other chiwogs: Usawom, Usagom and Usakha.

Both the motorable bridges were concrete and built by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Drinking water sources for the Bhutan Power Corporation’s staff quarters at Rinchengang, the Punatsangchhu project’s staff quarters and for people living near the Wangdue bridge, were also washed away, Wangdue Dzongdag Sonam Jigme said.

A local, Kuenga Drukpa, said the flash flood also washed away several irrigation sources for Nahi, Rinchengang and Gaselo. Irrigation sources for Hyodgirongchu, Usawom, Rinchengang, and two sources of Jagarbjaphu, Bjopgizhing, and Gaselo (Tshog-gom and wom) each, have been washed away.

Dzongdag Sonam Jigme said the flood started a few minutes after an earth quake at around 5:19pm on the evening of September 17. By the time it reached Nachuzampa, near Nahi primary school, it was around 8pm.

Kuenga Drukpa said Nahi primary school is located just above the Rongchhu at Nachuzampa which was also at risk of being flooded. Many students from far-flung villages in Nahi are boarders at the school. One of the oldest schools in the country, Nahi primary school is located on the edge of the Rongchhu and has previously seen such floods.

Despite several requests, the education ministry has not yet shifted the school to a safer site, said Kuenga Drukpa, who is also a former tshogpa. The students of the school were evacuated before the flood reached the area around Nachuzampa. Nabisa residents had warned teachers at the school about the flood.

“We are hoping if the government could shift the school to near the Nahi gewog centre, as it is not just a safer place but has offices located there,” said Dorji, another local.

Lham, 43, who lives close to Nachuzampa and Nahi school, said this was the first such flash flood she has experienced. Lham, who is a mother of two school-going children, said that the flood made a roaring sound and that the ground shook. “It was scary,” she said. “We ran to higher ground,” she added. “I am worried about the safety of my children and other students of Nahi. The flood was unpredictable, huge and occurred without any rainfall.”

In 2014, another flash flood occurred on the Rongchhu while classes were in session. However, it wasn’t as large as the September 17 flash flood and no bridges were washed away.

Lham said that a neighbour and one of her family members, who had been guarding their fields, located a few metres below Nahi school, against wild animals, were nearly killed by the flood. Several people have lost their cattle, she added.

Meanwhile, the Wangdue dzongkhag administration along with Desuups, army and police personnel, the area’s National Council representative, government officials and other volunteers have been working since yesterday morning to build a temporary bridge to connect Nahi school. The school is likely to remain closed today.

Locals were not aware of a lake at the source of the Rongchhu, said Dzongdag Sonam Jigme.

The flood is suspected to have been caused either by a cloud burst or the bursting of an artificial lake formation.

Dawa Gyelmo | Nahi
Via Kuensel