Flood: Early warning sirens that went off at around 1:30am yesterday sent the people of Chamkhar town in Bumthang scurrying about, trying to reach higher ground.

The road towards Lamaigonpa was jammed with vehicles.

Police and dzongkhag officials were engaged in managing the traffic and the crowd. Police were seen at the bridge in Chamkhar monitoring the water level. Panic spread as the raging river brought along with it the smell of fresh earth.

Lhawang Dema, 46, was sleeping when her neighbours woke her up, banging her door. It was 12:30 am. She ran with her neighbours to inspect the water level at the river. It was all muddy and roiling.

“I came back and was leaning on my bed. Then I heard the alarm. It was 1:30am,” said Lhawang Dema. Along with her family members, she rushed towards the dzongkhag court and remained there until 5am.

Dendrup Wangmo thought it was another fire in Chamkhar town again but realised that it was the noise of the swollen river.

“I took my mother and children to Jakar Higher Secondary School and returned home with my husband to save our belongings,” she said.

A technician with hydromet department in Kurjey, Dungchu Wangdi said the water level reached the alert level of three metres, at 5:45 am the day before and decreased gradually. By 9pm the water level rose again. “It kept on increasing until it hit the alarm level. It was 4.10 metres,” he said.

He added all six early warning alarms along the Chamkharchhu went off.

Bumthang Dzongdag Phub Tshering said the residents of Chamkhar town have been advised to move to safer ground.

“We have been actively involved in cautioning and managing them and no damage has been caused,” said the  Dzongdag.

Residents of Chamkhar could be seen packing their belongings to spend the night on higher ground last night.

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang