Disaster: Continuous rainfall over the last few days caused several landslides and sections of roads to be washed away along some of the country’s major highways. At least two motorable bridges have been damaged and rendered inaccessible.
Following several landslides, the Thimphu to Phuentsholing highway was closed to traffic yesterday.
Officials said the major blocks occurred near Kamji, 22-24km away from Phuentsholing towards Thimphu.
The landslides occurred following incessant rain.
Landslides also occurred in Taktikothi and Gedu but were cleared later in the day.
However, a huge section of the road was washed away near Kamji. Traffic officials stopped vehicles travelling towards Thimphu from Phuentsholing but vehicles coming from Thimphu were still stuck yesterday.
As per a DANTAK press release, the project is trying to clear this highway by today.
It may be a few days before this highway is open to traffic. The Sarpang river has washed away almost 200m of the road at Sarpang town.
Continuous rain made it impossible for the Department of Roads (DoR) to work on excavating a road diversion at the base of the hill, along which the highway ran.
All machinery are on standby, unable to begin works on connecting the washed away road.
The Sarpang river broke its banks and washed away Sarpang town early July 21.
Two excavators continue to move boulders and gravel upstream in an effort to divert water away from the highway but to no avail.
DoR’s executive engineer, CB Mongar, said that until the course of the river is diverted it will be impossible to work on connecting the road.
Even if it is connected, it is likely that it will be washed away quickly.
“We can work on making an alternate alignment only when the water level subsides or the river course is changed,” he said. “Our efforts are not working right now.”
This highway is blocked at several locations. With about 100m of the road foundation washed away by heavy landslides at box-cutting, the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway has been closed to traffic since yesterday morning.
The road has also been washed away at three locations. While debris was cleared at two locations, heavy rain continues to wash away the road at the third block making it impossible for DoR to excavate.
Another roadblock near the Chisopani gate was opened in the morning. The highway is also blocked 49km away from Gelephu and machineries were yet to reach the site to clear the debris yesterday.
The Dagana-Tsirang highway saw roadblocks at several locations but DoR managed to clear the road to traffic by late afternoon yesterday. However the Drujeygang-Tsangkha road is yet to be cleared.
Junior engineer, Basant Gurung said that despite trying to clear the debris since yesterday morning the road could not be opened to traffic. The road is blocked at seven locations and around 5-6m of road have been washed away at each location.
“We’ll continue removing the landslide from early (today),” he said.
Meanwhile Sarpang, Tsirang and Dagana continue to receive heavy rainfall.
The Buduney bailey bridge located about three kilometres away from Samtse collapsed early yesterday. With the bridge down, nine gewogs in Samtse remain cut off.
Gewogs such as Dophuchen (Dorokha), Denchukha, Tading, Dumtey and Gomtu have not been affected.
However, commuters can still get to the Sipsu area if they go through India via Nagarkatta towards Jitti.
Meanwhile, the road link between Phuentsholing and Pasakha was also cut off after slabs broke apart on a bridge over the Bhalujhora stream, following one of its ends sinking.
A DoR engineer with the Phuentsholing office said access would remain closed.
“The river has swollen,” the engineer said, adding that the bridge may collapse if it continues to rain heavily.
Amochhu business area
More than 20 business establishments located along the Amochhu (Toorsa) embankments in Phuentsholing were affected yesterday after the main route to the area was washed away.
The flood occurred in the early morning due to continuous rainfall for the past few days.
However, as a result of support from the Phuentsholing Thromde, dungkhag, Royal Bhutan Army and Royal Bhutan Police personnel, and desuups, most equipment was relocated to safer areas before the area flooded.
Many warehouses, makeshift houses, a canteen, and some toilets that were located close to the river were washed away.
Water had also entered construction areas and some workshops.
Rigsar Construction’s proprietor, Sherab, said that he had been busy since 5am preparing mitigation measures. “Some more stones would have helped,” he said, adding that the boulders he placed close to his business house played a critical role in saving his properties. “As the river strikes right here, these boulders also saved the entities beyond my land.”
Sherab said more stones need to be placed to protect the area.
With the main road that ran through the business area along the Amochhu embankment being washed away, the Phuentsholing and Lokchina gewogs are cut off from each other.
Other roads that connected Phuentsholing gewog to Bangay Bazaar were also destroyed by the river.
Two Bolero pickup trucks were also washed away following landslides in Darjaygaon.
Three landslides occurred along Pedestrian Lane while some walls collapsed in the Kabreytar area in Phuentsholing, thromde officials said.
Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that it would take some time to determine the full extent of damages.
“Rain has affected the whole Phuentsholing city,” the thrompon said.
He pointed out that in Pasakha, the water source has been affected and the caretakers of the tank were evacuated yesterday.
On the road that has been washed away along the Amochhu, Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that the thromde will look for alternative routes.
The embankment areas fall under Local Area Plan that was just completed.
Should the thromde decide to use the area for development activities, all the businesses located there will have to stop and most likely move elsewhere. However, such development plans would start only when the Amochhu Land Reclamation project starts.
After that even the private landowners would have to keep their lands for building constructions only.
There are more than 40 business establishments located along the embankment consisting of workshops, warehouses, scrap shops, general shops, and furniture houses.
Rajesh Rai & Nirmala Pokhrel