Windstrom: The April 4 windstorm is likely to cost the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan (RICBL) about Nu 10M (million), according to the preliminary damage estimates.

RICBL’s executive director, Sonam Dorji, said the estimation could change once the damage assessment is complete.   The damage assessment began immediately after the windstorm in all the nine affected dzongkhags of Dagana, Chukha, Samtse, Tsirang, Trashigang, Pemagatshel, Sarpang, Zhemgang and Samdrupjongkhar.

Although RICBL has branch offices in all the affected districts, Sonam Dorji said, the head office had also sent additional people.  About 15 engineers and 10 officials from the Phuentsholing and Thimphu offices are out in the fields.

The insurance for traditional rural houses is categorised into four, of which the highest is Nu 300,000 and the lowest is Nu 60,000.

In about 10 minutes, the windstorm damaged 815 homes, 89 government structures, and 15 public infrastructures across 52 gewogs in nine dzongkhags.  All rural houses are insured, while none of the government structures that include schools, health facilities and lhakhangs and choetens are insured.

Of the 89 government structures, 62 were schools, followed by seven health facilities and 20 lhakhangs and choetens.

The windstorm caused major to minor damages, where roofs were either completely or partially ripped off.

Damage to cash crops, like potatoes, wheat, and cardamom, was also reported in Bongo, Chukha.  Three persons, one in Dagana and two in Chukha’s Darla gewog, were injured, while a cow and four calves were killed.

RICBL’s rural household insurance scheme covers about 66,000 houses across the country.  During a meeting with local government officials last year, RICBL proposed the same premium as rural houses for community lhakhangs.  However, none came forward to insure.

The calamity this time, according to RICBL officials, was not as severe as the December 2013 windstorm that affected 11 districts, with the western districts of Paro, Haa and Punakha being the worst hit.

With the country seeing several natural calamities like earthquakes and windstorms since 2009, RICBL officials said they were now well prepared to handle such cases effectively.

Executive director Sonam Dorji said RICBL had the resources to manage any kind of emergencies.

As per the rural house insurance scheme guidelines, all claims have to be settled within a month from the date of registration of claims.  In 2013, officials said they settled the claims within 15 days.

“This time we’ll facilitate all claims in all the dzongkhags within a week to 10 days,” Sonam Dorji said.

RICBL disburses the compensation amount through the respective dzongkhags, dungkhags and gewogs or branch offices.

Since 2013, RICBL took over the rural insurance scheme from the government.  Earlier, RICBL only facilitated the insurance claims for the government.

Then, the government offered only two schemes for Nu 60,000 and Nu 150,000.

Discussions are now on with the government to transfer the life insurance to RICBL.  If the proposal comes through, RICBL will cover the life insurance of the entire population.  Currently, a person pays about Nu 45 as premium every year, for which the family is entitled Nu 15,000 on his or her death.

Meanwhile, the number of affected structures has not changed, disaster management department officials said.  The department has to date distributed 550 tarpaulin sheets across nine dzongkhags as temporary relief measures.

Among the nine, Dagana was hit the worst.  It reported damage to 330 houses in nine gewogs, besides 30 public and government infrastructures.

Dagana dzongda Tenzin Thinley said all rural houses affected by the windstorm were insured. “At present, people don’t have money to buy CGI roof, which the insurance claims could help to a certain extent,” he said.

The dzongda said many affected people were also requesting for concession on rural timber to rebuild their roofs. “As of now, most roofings were weak which is why they were easily blown off,” the dzongda said.

By Kinga Dema