Blames negligence of BPC

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

A 14-year-old student of Chumigthang MSS student, Pasakha is recovering at Phuentsholing General Hospital (PGH) from second degree burns he sustained from an electrical accident at Baunijhora, Pasakha on June 25.

He is in stable condition.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of June 25, when the boy and his friend, another 14-year-old student, were returning home from school. The victim’s friend didn’t sustain injuries. The boys were passing through an area to avoid the problematic Baunijhora road downstream. One of the boys, the taller one, went too close to 11kv electric line and got exposed to an electrical flashover, which is a continuous electric discharge of high current.

The boy burned his hand and leg.

According to sources, the distance between the BPC’s 11kv line and the ground level was not at the standard mark. The lines had been hanging low, nearly touching the ground.

The height between the electric lines and ground was more than six metres. But with flash floods washing down debris downstream of Baunijhora, the floods had filled  up the riverbed level. The distance was narrowed down to 1.8 metre between the line and the ground.

Police sources said that  if anyone came within 0.7 metre sphere, one gets exposed to an electric flashover voltage even without any contact with the line.

Although the ground level had increased due to the continuous rain and debris filling up the river, sources claimed that the accident occurred due to “negligence” from the Bhutan Power Corporation’s (BPC) side.

Two BPC technicians from Pasakha were detained, but were later released with surety. Phuentsholing police will file a case to the court to fix accountability.


BPC’s stand

A senior divisional manager with BPC office in Phuentsholing, Chhejay Wangdi, said BPC management always maintains the required ground clearances as per the requirement of the standards.

“However, due to recent flooding and continuous rain, the ground clearance of the existing 11kV line became low due to sand and debris deposition under the line,” he said.

According to BPC officials, a day before the incident, dredging was carried out as a mitigation measure under the supervision of BPC staff. The  ground clearance was maintained as per the required standard, they claimed.

Chhejay Wangdi said BPC staff at Pasakha and Rigsar’s construction site supervisor conducted awareness and sensitisation to the public passing by on the associated risk since the entire area was risky.

“The incident happened with the flashover voltage. While visiting the site after the incident, it was observed that the ground clearance had become low due to deposit of sand and debris under the 11kV line, which BPC did not foresee for such immediate re-deposition within a short duration,” he said.

It  was an unfortunate accident, he said.

BPC also initiated mitigation work the same day of incident by dredging and standard distance was maintained. The site was also barricaded. On June 26, further mitigation works were carried out.

“We are keeping in constant touch with the victim and their family, including the doctors attending the students,” said Chhejay Wangdi.

Meanwhile, observers are saying that the incident should not pass as an “unfortunate incident.”

“The incident happened because of negligence,” one said. “Those responsible should be taken to task and fixed accountability.”

Another Pasakha resident said that two innocent lives were at stake because of negligence of authorities.

“If awareness were carried out, it would not have caused a student to nearly lose his life,” he said. “Will the corporation (BPC) take accountability, if he had succumbed to the injuries?”