Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu 

After more than five hours, rescuers evacuated the couple stranded on a mound in the middle of swollen Kalikhola river at around 11.50pm last night.

The husband was working at a private crushing unit in Chaskhar under Chhuzangang gewog. However, before their mobile phones ran out of battery, officials of the disaster management heading the rescue operations said that they were fine, not traumatized even with the river swelling around the mound where they had climbed for safety.

Officials said the couple were fine, not hungry and just wanted to be rescued.

At around 10:30pm, after more than four hours of trying to bring the couple to safety, rescue operations were suspended for some time following continuous rainfall upstream.

A chain excavator, after reaching the site, tried to get to the couple from different locations. However, increasing water level hampered its efforts.

“Despite our continuous efforts since morning, it was unsuccessful. We will resume the operations early this morning,” said a rescuer. “We have tried all the possible alternatives.”

As a desperate measure, the rescue team tried to shoot edible items at the couple using a bow and arrow.  It failed.

The incident

At 8.30am yesterday, the village tshogpa reported to the Norbugang gewog police about the stranded couple.  A police team reached the site by 9 am. The Dzongkhag emergency rescue team reported to the site by 10.30am, but could not conduct the rescue operations.

Incessant rainfall caused Kalikhola river to flood

The husband, a native of Panbang in Zhemgang, is the caretaker of the crusher store. He worked as a machine operator with the crusher owner. His wife is a resident of Dechenpelri (Edi) in Gelephu.

Continuous heavy rainfall in the past few days in the region resulted in the merging of the Thewar river and the spillover of water from the Mauchhu, raising the water level of the Kalikhola river since yesterday morning.

The dzongkhag emergency rescue team, along with the dzongkhag incident commander and the police joined the rescue operation. But the swift current and continuous rain hampered the operation. The couple was advised to stay on higher ground until the water level subsides while also waiting for a chain excavator to arrive at the site.

The emergency medical team from the Central Regional Referral Hospital, Gelephu, and the desuups also joined the rescue operation towards evening.

Despite cautionary notifications from the dzongkhag to avoid visiting the river sites during the monsoon, the couple went to the site. “The couple along with a machine operator were on their way to collect mushrooms on the other side of the river. We also told him to avoid visiting the crusher site,” a resident said.

According to residents, the water level has not increased to this level in the last five years. “The crushing unit has not been in operation for almost a year,” another resident said. “As the water level started rising in the morning, we went to the river site and called the couple several times. After a few minutes, they came up to the high ground, by then their shed was washed away.”

Meanwhile, the store room at the plant site was washed away and a tipper truck was submerged in the river.