To test Thimphu Thromde’s contingency plan and readiness of the stakeholders concerned in the event of disasters, an earthquake simulation exercise was conducted on November 10 in Thimphu Thromde.

The activity was carried out in seven identified locations in Babesa and Norzin areas.

One of the thromde representatives, Kuenga Yonten, said that Bhutan was one of the earthquake-prone areas. “So that we can tackle and plan better during earthquakes, it was carried to know about how to go about conducting safety protocols and carry out duties when a disaster occurs.”

The exercise was also aimed to create awareness and to check the preparedness of the stakeholders to carry out safety procedures.

He said that during the exercise, ambulance and the help that was necessary to save the injured people were late. “Search and rescue team was slow. When they do not reach the place sooner, some of the people injured die.”

He said that there was a need to improve the coordination among agencies to provide better services during such times. “During earthquakes, there are chances of houses collapsing, and so, I feel there was a need of earth movers and vehicles.”

The exercise involved the simulation of fire outbreaks, and collapse of buildings requiring search and rescue, medical emergency, traffic, and fire-fighting response services in the identified locations.

Deputy chief of the Department of Disaster Management’s (DDM) Preparedness and Response Division’s, Sonam Deki, said that the exercise was successful as they could mobilise the responding agencies’ services although there were areas where improvement was needed. “More people need to be trained in the search and rescue team. With about four search and rescue teams, it was difficult for them to reach everywhere. If the earthquake was stronger, then search and rescue teams need to reach more places as more chances of damages are expected. More equipment was also required.”

She said that communication was another area where all agencies involved needed to improve. “There needs to be enough handsets as there are chances of the mobile phone network getting down. More channels also need to be allocated as handsets only work within three kilometres.”

She said that the coordination among the responding agencies could be better. “It was crucial that the instant management team members knew about their responsibilities in detail. With the Instant Commander, which is Thrompon, it was critical of how they commanded and activated services.”

She said that people also needed to carry out plans concerning the disaster situations in the family.

It was learnt that evacuation drills were carried out in three schools.

Thimphu Thromde in collaboration with the DDM and Save the Children organised the exercise.

Rinchen Zangmo