…victims await compensation

Jigmi Wangdi

The Electricity Regulatory Authority’s (ERA) independent assessment revealed that the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) had no role in the cause of the Chang Debsi fire that burned thousands of acres and killed four people in February this year. 

Victims and bystanders alleged that the fire first started as a spark from an electric wire and quickly spread in the area fuelled by strong winds. Rescue efforts were rendered futile amidst thick smoke and huge flames. 

An official with ERA said that their repeated investigations spanning for over two months into the case did not find any signs that the fire was caused by an electrical defect. “We checked if BPC met the required standards and electrical parameters.” This meant that the quality of the earthing and wires were assessed.

 He said that ERA cannot hold BPC responsible if the fire was caused by something that is beyond BPC’s control. 

As some people claimed that the fire started from near a transformer, he said that the investigations were carried out about 12 metres  away from the transformer. Technically, he said, it was impossible for the residues of a short circuit to reach the area where the fire initially started. 

“It was not possible to find a definitive cause of the fire,” he said, adding that if BPC did not meet the standards, they could have penalised the office for negligence. 

Months ago, the victims filed a case with police against BPC, but the police refused to take up the case, stating that it was not a criminal offense.

They are waiting to be compensated for the losses they incurred. 

The victims who suffered substantial losses owing to the fire have said that they are yet to receive compensation for the properties that were burnt by the fire. 

One victim lost his house to the fire. “I had plans to renovate my house and had construction materials worth Nu 6 million. I lost it all.”

He said that the police reached out to him and the other victims around two months ago asking for the details of the properties that had been lost to the fire. 

Another victim of the fire was the employer of the tree loggers who had lost their lives during the incident.  

“The police have asked for all the details of the deceased loggers and I have shared it with them. I am hopeful that the authorities will compensate for the lost lives,” he said.

A woman, who was also a victim of the fire said that she is waiting for compensation for the damages. “We were called by the police for details and to write a statement. But there has been no news or updates for a month.”

In April, during the 49th Meet the Press, the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Loknath Sharma, said that even with numerous investigations and consultations with the public, the ministry has been unable to pinpoint the cause of the fires.