It is a pleasant day in Kencholing village of Shompangkha in Sarpang yesterday.

The leaves of areca nut trees sway gently in the cool afternoon breeze. The maize fields are lush green and farmers are busy.

What happened here three weeks ago seems a long time ago except for few remains of broken areca nut trees. Life has become normal.

“We can’t afford to dwell for long on our loss,” an elderly woman said. “We’ve to work so we have something to eat.”

Phul Maya Tamang was at home in Kencholing looking after her two kids on the afternoon of March 29.

A little past 1pm, Phul Maya Tamang had just left the 15-days old kid near the mother goat to feed when it started to thunder and hailstorm.

“The strong winds were blowing off the roof of our hut and I rushed back in to my children,” she said.

She clutched onto them and crouched over them. The hailstorm, that lasted for about 10 minutes pounded with such strong force that she thought they would die.

As soon as the hailstones stopped, Phul Maya Tamang remembered the goats outside. She rushed out. All six goats tethered in the open ground belonging to her family lay still.

She said she took a closer look and would not be able to forget what she saw.

The mother goat lay over her kid. One of her front limbs and the head was over her kid.

“As a mother, I felt sad that the mother goat died trying to protect her child,” she said. “I should have returned it to the shed when I went in.”

Her family also lost five hens.

Phul Maya Tamang’s family was among the 361 households who reported damage from the storm. The wind and hailstorm swept through Shompangkha, Gakiling and Singye gewogs of Sarpang. Of the three, Shompangkha suffered the most damage.

The storm blew off the roof of six houses and 12 poultry sheds. A total of 329 households reported damage to their crops and 39 households harming their livestock including the death of 710 poultry birds and 1,500 broken eggs.

The storm broke 8,907 areca nut trees of 249 households, 3,757 banana trees, 69.95 acres of maize field of 89 households, 14.1 acres of mixed vegetables and 8.59 acres of chilli belonging to 50 households. It also damaged trees such as litchi, mango, guava, jackfruit, papaya, pineapples, coconut and lemon along with coffee, beans and potato.

The agriculture ministry distributed free vegetable seeds and 840kgs of maize seeds for re-sowing.

Sarpang kidu officer, Karma Choeda, said the villagers were compensated Nu 769,000 worth of seeds and livestock.

He said the major damage is on areca nut trees and those will be compensated with three-year-old saplings.

Dorji Lhamo from Shompangkha lost 34 of her 400 areca nut trees. “We pray that such a weather does not come again.”

Meanwhile, those who do areca nut business are worried that their produce would fetch lower prices in the market.

An areca nut businessman, Tshering Dorji collects areca nut from these three gewogs and supplies to Punakha and Wangdue.

“It’s sure I won’t make as much money but for the farmers, they have lost the source of income,” he said.

Most villagers have sold the orchards to businessmen like Tshering Dorji and collected the money long ago.

The kidu officer said even the chilli plants were ready for harvest.

Elders in the villages said they have only experienced such hailstones in the 1960s.

On April 4, 2015, a hailstorm in Sarpang blew away the roof of a house and killed four calves in Chudzom gewog. It also left the dzongkhag facing frequent power cuts for days.

Tshering Palden | Gelephu