Thinley Namgay    

Around 200 residents of Lunana who are stranded in Punakha due to lockdowns and heavy snowfall on the mountains are still waiting to use the helicopter service to return home.

The highlanders, who had come to Punakha in December to stock up on a year’s worth of essential items, have been living with their relatives and in rented apartments.

The government granted travel permissions for the Lunaps on February 14 and the helicopter was supposed to take them back to Lunana on the same day.

Dawa Gyeltshen said there are about 200 horses with the stranded people. “We have decided to keep horses in Goenshari and Laya by recruiting herders.”

The cost of hiring the helicopter service from Punakha to Lunana is Nu 117,200. The government pays 50 percent of the cost.

An official from the Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited said bad weather prevented the flight.

“On February 17, we had to cancel the trip after reaching Dochula due to bad weather,” an official said. “Our staff are already stationed in Zomlingthang to facilitate the flight.”

Meanwhile, almost 100 people from Laya and some 400 horses are also stranded in Punakha. They are waiting for travel permissions from the government.