A flash flood from Rangshikhar in Trashigang on the evening of July 22 caused the Mithimdrang stream to swell and wash away a wooden cantilever bridge near the archery range.
The flash flood started around 7:13pm. The bridge over the flood protection wall was covered in muck cutting off traffic in the town.
An hour later, the water level subsided allowing officials to clear the bridge. The traffic was reopened at 10:12pm the same night. Some 30 residents of the lower market area were also evacuated to one of the resorts.
Although no major damages were reported, the meat shop and the ground floor of the vegetable market including two huts and the children’s park were completely covered in muck. Four vehicles including two trucks were also stuck.
Officials said they are assessing the damages.
The drinking water source for the town was also washed away during the flash flood. A team comprising of municipal officials, police and residents were sent to fix the source yesterday.
Men and machine were deployed by 8am to clear the 7ft deep muck accumulated on either side of the stream since yesterday.
Officials said that it would at least take about two months to clear all the debris.
Trashigang dzongdag, Chekey Gyeltshen, said public institutions like hospitals would require water on a continuous basis. “Fixing the water source and making it available to the public is our top priority.”
Meanwhile, this is not the first time the Mithimdrang stream has swollen and caused damages in the town.
Twenty-four years ago, a similar flash flood washed away houses and other properties in the town. “Although there were no casualties then, the damage caused was major,” the thromde thuemi, Thinley Namgay, said. “If it wasn’t for the flood protection wall, the lower market would have been completely washed away this time.”
He said that the stream has a history of swelling suddenly even during a bright sunny day. “There were many minor floods after the major one in 1994. Since then this was the biggest flood that has hit the town in recent years.”
The thuemi said it is believed that the name of the stream was derived from an incident that took place some 100 years ago. “There was a major flood that washed away all the people and their animals. This is why it is known as Mithimdrang (stream that drowns people).”
Given the history with the stream, the dzongdag said that further safety measures would have to be put in place. “We are studying measures to increase the height of the bridge including the installment of a siren system to alert the public at times of flood disasters.”
Residents living alongside the stream said that the flood protection wall was the reason that there were no major damages during the incident. “If it wasn’t for the wall, beside the property loss, people would have died,” a resident, Dorji, said. “I’ve seen the previous floods but this was more powerful.”
The 266 metre long reinforced cement concrete (RCC) flood protection wall was completed last year. It is around 8ms wide and about 5ms tall.
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang