Trashigang highway opened to traffic at 5pm of October 4 after remaining closed for almost 22 hours after a landslide blocked a stretch of the road at Phongshing.

Heavy rainfall over the last few days in the dzongkhag triggered a landslide on October 3 at around 7pm. The landslide covered some 50 metres of the highway.

More than 100 people were stranded on the either side of the block.

However, a few people crossed the block on October 3 “on their own risk”. “I cannot wait here. We have a dead body that has to be prepared for the funeral tomorrow,” a farmer, Sangay Dorji, said.

A bolero pickup was waiting for Sangay Dorji and friends at the other side of the block. His friend, however, was reluctant to cross the block at night, claiming he should wait for the block to be cleared.

It was 9pm. “We don’t have time to wait,” Sangay Dorji said. “There are still rocks falling,” cautioned another friend. About 30 minutes later, the group of four decided to cross. Stumbling through the boulders, than the group marched with their mobile phone lights until they reached the other end.

Following them, some more people started to cross the block. No sooner did the last person arrive at the other end, the adjacent side of the cliff started falling. People started retreating. While a few remained at the site, the rest returned to the town to find a place to stay. People stranded on the other side returned towards Kanglung and Pam areas.

An ambulance carrying a patient from Kanglung BHU to Trashigang hospital had also returned.

A payloader machine from Project DANTAK was deployed the next day to clear the block. Another excavator arranged by the dzongkhag added to the efforts to clear the road. It took almost eight hours for the two machines to clear the block.

One of the Trashigang residents, who was travelling towards Samdrupjongkhar, said that the dzongkhag should have deployed more machines to clear the road. “Since this is a highway, the dzongkhag should have put in all the efforts to clear the block at the earliest,” he said. “There are two excavators with the dzongkhag. None of the machines are deployed here.”

Officials from the dzongkhag said that both the machines were engaged in the clearing the gewog roads in Yangnyer and Samkhar gewogs.

Meanwhile, Phongshing is about a kilometre away from Trashigang police station towards the BOD station in Kheri. On July 6, a couple died on the spot when a falling boulder hit their hut in the same area.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang