The metal arch of the chamber was punctured allowing soil to enter

Update: Rescuers recovered the body of one of the six men, who was buried alive by loose soil at Punatshangchhu II on March 3.

The incident occurred in the downstream surge chamber of Punatsangchhu-II’s powerhouse when the metal arch of the chamber gave way and allowed soil to enter, at 1am on March 3.

The body was recovered at around 9:15pm on March 3, and the victim was identified as a boomer machine operator.

The cause of death was suffocation said project officials. No injuries were found on the body.

The six were trapped and buried when they were working on their night shift along with 11 other men, who managed to escape. A project supervisor deployed at the site at that time had also escaped, after he exited the chamber prior to the slide following a stomach upset.

The pressure on the mountain was too high and as a result it punctured through the metal arch shield that supports the entire 340 metre in length chamber, PHPA managing director R N Khazanchi said. He added that the accident was not expected as the entire arch has been welded and well supported.

Loose-soil and boulders are located within the 100 metre to 160 metre marks.

The dislodged portion is expected to be around 34 metres high and 18 metres wide.

Rescue works continue despite boulders and soil continuing to fall since the evening of March 3 and hampering efforts, said R N Khazanchi.

He said at around 2pm three experts from New Delhi had arrived at the project site. “After visiting the accident spot at the project, we have immediately started with the discussions and meeting with the experts,” he said. Around 7pm the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Jaideep Sarkar, had also arrived at the project site.

The managing director said the project officials and three experts will discuss immediate remedial measures, how to go about it, and also the long-term efforts.

While the rescue efforts would continue, other things would take time to restore, he said. As there is need to analyse the data and investigate the situation thoroughly.

R N Khazanchi said the three experts would spend around two-three days at the project site to fully study the case and come up with measures.

The project’s chairman and minister for economic affairs, Norbu Wangchuk will visit the project site today, said the managing director.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue