… residents seek shelter in neighbouring chiwogs

Tshering Namgyal | Jasabi

Residents of Jasabi, Kurtoe say they can never be at home after what happened to the tiny hamlet in the early hours of September 30.

The ground shook violently as boulders, trees, and mud came crashing down onto homes with a large unusual rumbling. Stepping out of the house, Tashi Dendup saw the flood drawing close to his house. In an instant, he woke up his wife, grabbed the two ghos hanging by the window and dashed out of their home. 

Tashi, 48, and his wife ran for their lives with whatever clothes they could gather.

Their house was at the bottom of the village on the slope was startled out of their sleep as the flood descended onto the houses above them.

He dragged her down more than 100 metres to the suspension bridge using the cell phone torches.

She grumbled but didn’t resist.

“I kept pulling her without even letting her pick up her mobile phone and we finally crossed the Kurichhu to safety,” the former Jasabi tshogpa said.

Soon they saw lights at a distance coming toward them. Sonam Dorji and his wife narrowly escaped the flood too.

The couple ran to the bridge in the heavy rain with the flash flood at their heels. They were in shirts and shorts.

From a garage, they frantically called everyone they thought necessary. Among the many, Tshogpa Sonam Dorji called Kurtoe gup and the mangmi.

As they waited they could hear debris crash into the river on the other side laying to waste whatever was in its way.

Tashi Dendup and his wife decided to climb higher up to Tshongsar village, which has two households, to seek shelter.  After more than 30 minutes, they entered a house. 

The two men joined the gup and mangmi who set forth with 17 local de-suups and headed towards Jasabi.

As they moved around rubbles and the debris, they heard someone yelling for help.

“We immediately took them out and called an ambulance,” said a de-suup and Kurtoe gewog administrative officer, Tashi Tshering.

The couple is currently being treated at Lhuentse hospital and is in stable condition.

Landslides had taken place at numerous locations around the village. Soon they realised the extent of the disaster the flash flood caused.

Five members of a family have been buried in their house. It took two days to recover their bodies.

Office of His Royal Highness Gyaltshab in Gyalpoizhing and Lhuentse dzongkhag administration coordinated the search and rescue operation and transferring of the bodies. Soldiers, de-suups, forestry officials and villagers carried them on stretchers for more than half an hour since the road was blocked at several points.

Their bodies were handed over to their relatives and moved to Khoma for cremation. What happens now to those who survived still remains uncertain. Most are scared to return.

Some dread even to think of the incident.

A sense of insecurity lingers in the residents who talked to Kuensel. Most of them move away along with their cattle to stay with relatives in nearby Tabi and Dungkar chiwogs and are dreading going back.

Tashi Dhendup said this is the second time he has witnessed such an incident.

When he was 12 years, a similar flash flood occurred on the other bank partially burying the fields.

Another resident said he took his wife and daughter the same night to his parental home at Tabi. They don’t want to stay in Jasabi anymore.

“The incident is beyond my imagination and we can’t say it won’t repeat. We do not want to go back anymore,” the resident said.

While most of them are scared to go back a few said that the area is fertile.

“We love the place inherited from our ancestors. It is fertile and grows all nine varieties of cereals,” said Tashi Dhendup.

He wants to live with his friend in Tabi until the paddy harvest and then explore options. “We’re willing to take risks.”

His wife Tshencho Dema, 46, said the incident still haunts her.

The flash flood also washed away 11 cattle, a power tiller and damaged acres of paddy, buckwheat, millet, vegetables and mixed orchard belonging to seven households. The damage is being assessed.

Jasabi village has 10 households. Most depend on potter service for cash income after the mule track to the famous Khenpalung tshachu has been improved two years ago besides cultivating early chilli and other vegetables.