According to the information provided by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MOHCA), heavy rainfall and windstorm from Cyclone Fani lead to some damages like roadblocks and landslides, damage of crops and Chortens and a bus accident where eight people, four male and four female, lost their lives.
The DDM said that as per the information shared by the Disaster Management Officers from different dzongkhags in their WhatsApp group, heavy rainfall has caused major roadblock and landslide at Canopy area which is two km away from Kuri-Gongri bridge towards Nganglam and there were a few roadblocks in Pemagatshel dzongkhag.
The rainfall damaged a Chorten measuring 5 feet 9 inches and another ChortenDangrem measuring 22 feet at Shingkhar village under Ura gewog in Bumthang. The rain also damaged few acres of maize crops in Jurmey gewog in Mongar, according to DDM officials.
DDM official also said that heavy windstorm caused by cyclone Fani has damaged two houses in Jurmey gewog in Mongar.
A Bumpa Transport bus carrying 24 passengers met with an accident along the Thimphu-Tsirang highway around 20 km after Wangdue where 8 people lost their lives. The accident occurred when it was hit by falling boulders which pushed the bus below the road and it fell down into the Punatshangchu river. The rock slide was triggered by heavy rainfall from cyclone Fani, a DDM official said.
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering who visited the spot and the Wangdue and JDWNRH hospital said that His Majesty The King personally supervised the rescue of the 16 passengers who were evacuated to safety.
The rescue happened amid heavy rainfall and rolling rocks and slides.
As per predictions from the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) in Bhutan, Indian Met Department in India and other international met departments Fani was predicted to cause heavy rainfall in Bhutan on 4th and 5th May.
However, luckily, the storm lost its strength rapidly given the long land route it had to take to reach near Bhutan. Cyclones need water bodies to build up strength which gets dissipated over land.
NCHM said Fani had weakened into a depression by Saturday evening and had completely dissipated by Saturday night from 8 pm to 11 pm.
The country, as a result, did not receive any cyclonic rainfall from Sunday and henceforth any rainfall will be from seasonal weather conditions.
Cyclone Fani, was strongest April cyclone in 43 years and it was headed Bhutan’s way as it huffed and puffed its way up the Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal and then into neighboring Bangladesh and India’s North-Eastern states.
The Cyclone had two nasty surprises in store for cyclone watchers. The first is that it moved faster then expected as it was supposed to make landfall in Odisha only by Friday noon but it landed on Friday morning.
Before that, the cyclone which was moving in a north-west direction away from Bhutan suddenly changed course and headed north-east which was more in Bhutan’s direction.
The Cyclone is unusual as it is very strong for this early in the season and it is charting a course for land.
How Bhutan prepared
Bhutan did not sit idle as various agencies of the government all geared up to meet the challenge.
The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) and relevant stakeholders, like Disaster Management Committees in 20 dzongkhags, different thromdes, Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) were all prepared to face the impact of Cyclone Fani.
The Cyclonic Storm Fani first formed over the South Bay of Bengal around 27 April and moved North- Northwest towards Andra Pradesh, but on 2 May, it changed its direction towards North-Northeast and made its landfall over the coast of Odisha from 8 am to 10:30 am on 3 May, according to the Regional Forecasting Center of the Indian Meteorological Center for Northeast India.
The morning of 3rd May on Friday saw Bhutan getting overcast and cloudy conditions with rain coming in by afternoon and evening. The rainfall lasted through Friday night continued on till Saturday evening.
On Friday the cyclone brought gusty winds at isolated places over neighboring Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim.
After the advisory issued by NCHM on the cyclonic storm, DDM had informed the disaster management committee present in all the 20 dzongkhags to prepare for the heavy rainfall expected in southern and eastern parts of the country.
DDM had alerted all the Dzongdas serving as the focal persons of the committee.
RSTA informed the people to avoid travelling during the bad weather but it has been criticized by people on social media for allowing public transport to ply on the day resulting in the death of the eight people.
Home Secretary, Sonam Tobgay, said at the time that they had alerted all the 20 Dzongdas about the cyclone as per the notification issued by NCHM.
He had that they are updated frequently by districts and NCHM, and were prepared if anything major happened.
The Director General of Disaster Management Department, Jigme Thinley Namgay, had said
In case of a disaster, the dzongkhag will try to mange everything on their own at the dzongkhag level, but if they are not able to manage, DDM will coordinate and provide assistance. He said they have a disaster financing mechanism where the government will provide the money and resources needed.
RBP and RSTA are closely monitoring the situation and will update public on the conditions of the roads.
The Chief of Police, Brigadier Colonel Chimmi Dorji had said that RBP issuedtravel advisories to commuters but he had said that no matter how much notifications were issued by the RBP the people want to travel.
Samdrupjongkhar Thrompon, Karma Sherab Tobgay had said that the disaster team is prepared.
Cyclone Aila in 2009
The last major Bay of Bengal cyclone that affected Bhutan was Cyclone Aila in 2009.
In the summer of 2009, Cyclone Aila caused rampant floods in many parts of the country and rendered Bhutan handicapped in terms of transport facilities. Reports with the DDM pointed out that incessant rainfall precipitated by Cyclone Aila led to record rise in the levels of major rivers. For instance, water levels in Punakha and Wangdue exceeded 1994 GLOF flood.
It claimed 13 lives besides causing damages to a hefty sum of Nu 722mn.