Quake: After about a 20-hour-long drive, 27 Bhutanese, most of them monks and nuns, arrived in Phuentsholing yesterday morning.

The Phuentsholing dungkhag administration and the thromde arranged two buses that travelled to Panitanki, an Indian town that borders the Nepalese town of Kakkarvitta.  Bhutanese officials and customs officials in Panitanki received the stranded Bhutanese.

Silliguri customs, central excise and service tax commissioner, Vandhana Deori, also personally met with the Bhutanese at the border.  They had been evacuated from Kathmandu at 6:50am and arrived at the border after an almost 15-hour journey.

Five hours later, they were received by the Phuentsholing thrompon and dungpa, who hosted a breakfast for them.

The stranded Bhutanese shared with Kuensel their experiences.

It was a happy moment for Ugyen Choden and her sister, who had come from Thimphu to receive their eldest sister Sonam Choden, who worked in a resort in Nepal.

“Although I didn’t go through much difficulty, I’m glad I am safe and home,” the 30-year-old spa specialist, Sonam Choden, said.

A guide, who wished not be named, and who had been learning Chinese in a language institute in Nepal, said that he along with two other friends had been browsing the internet when the earthquake struck.  They ran out to see buildings collapsing in the distance.  While their institute was not affected, they still decided to sleep out in the open out of fear of further earthquakes.

The collective relief of the group seemed to be exuded most audibly by two 11-year-old, monks who sang songs during the five-hour bus journey from Panitanki to Phuentsholing. “These children are going to meet their parents after a long time and they’re very excited,” a lady in the group said.

Some of the monks were returning home after many years.  Young monks, Namgyel Dorji and Passang Tshering Karma, who had spent most of their lives studying in Nepal, said they were looking forward to meeting their parents in Thimphu.

Centenarian rescued within hours

It was confirmed by sources that the 101-year-old man, Funchu Tamang, being treated by the Bhutanese medical team was not rescued from under the rubble of his home only after seven days, as reported by international media. He was in fact rescued within an hour of his home’s collapse by his grand daughter and had been waiting in his village for seven days for medical aid to arrive. When it did not, he and his relatives called the district hospital in Nuwakot, which sent a helicopter to bring him there. He told the team that he felt lucky to have survived another major earthquake. Funchu Tamang also experienced the magnitude 8 Bihar-Nepal earthquake in 1934. He is reportedly in stable condition.

The deputy chief of protocol with the foreign ministry, Kuenzang Dechen, who had escorted the stranded Bhutanese, said the process had been swift and well coordinated. “They were worried and wanted to come home,” he said.

The Bhutan4Nepal media focal person, Tshering Wangmo, pointed out that the evacuation had been assisted by the Indian embassy in Thimphu.  She added that the Bhutan4Nepal centre was appreciative of the support rendered by the home and foreign affairs ministries.

It was also pointed out by the Bhutan4Nepal media person that the SAARC director in Nepal, Singye Dorji, and his support team, and the Drukair station manager there, Yeshey Wangchuk, had been instrumental in identifying and organising the stranded Bhutanese.

The two buses that transported the stranded Bhutanese from the Nepalese border with India to Bhutan were contributed free of cost by Khorlo and Metho transport.

Tshering Wangmo said that there were no more stranded Bhutanese in Nepal currently.  She said that all Bhutanese currently in Nepal are there willingly.

Meanwhile, Bhutan will be sending 15 more members to support its 63-member team based in Triphuli, in Nuwakot district, today.

More relief supplies, including water, are also being sent on a chartered flight today as well.


By Rajesh Rai,  Phuentsholing

Additional reporting by Gyalsten K Dorji, Thimphu