Monsoon hits Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway and Sarpang town hardest

Heavier than normal monsoon rains over Bhutan and especially southern Bhutan wrecked havoc  in the last two weeks with mega landslides  cutting off the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway and nearly all major highways and smaller roads across Bhutan.

Meanwhile rivers and streams in southern Bhutan over flooded its banks destroying Sarpang town, washing away roads and bridges and flooding a part of the Phuentsholing workshop area.

Even as all of the above was unfolding the focus was on both relief and rebuilding as His Majesty The King lead the relief and recovery efforts in relocating the residents and their goods in Sarpang Town just before it was washed away on 21st July. People were subsequently provided relief and temporary accommodation was arranged.

The second major event was the closure of the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway on 24th July. The highway is a vital lifeline not only for the around 100,000 Thimphu City residents but also Chukha, Paro, Haa, Wangdue, Punakha and even other surrounding Dzongkhags like Gasa, Trongsa and Bumthang. This was made worse by the cutting off of most other major highways for varying lengths of time including the Pasakha-Manitar road and the Sarpang-Tsirang-Wangdue highway which could have serves as alternative routes to Thimphu.

There was some initial panic as people rushed for fuel in all the above affected Dzongkhags with some pumps even running dry. However, subsequent supply of fuel and gas improved the situation and the long initial lines turned into a normal trickle.

The Department of Roads which provided the Bailey bridge parts over the Kamji slide is working with project Dantak to rebuild the bridge. Another 50 Royal Bhutan Army soldiers were assigned by His Majesty The King to expedite the work.

In the meantime with cooperation from Industrialists from Pasakha the Department of Roads cleared the many blocks on the Pasakha-Manitar road by 28th July allowing for Thimphu and Phuentsholing to be reconnected on this bypass road until the Kamji Bailey bridge is done. Similarly the Sarpang-Tsirang-Wangdue highway was also opened on the same day.  The initial time estimate to build the Bailey was three days but a challenging terrain, bad weather and need to allow people and vital goods to move across meant more then double the time being required.

On the same 24th July reports started coming in of the Amochu river in Phuntsholing swelling up and threatening to flood its banks. Here again Royal Bhutan Army and the police were helped actively by the Desuups, Thromde officials, heavy machinery owners and other volunteers in building an embankment which protected a much greater area from being flooded then the initial lower areas of the workshop area. The Prime Minister who arrived on the site in the evening also rolled up his sleeves and filled up sand bags along with the others till 1 am in the morning. His Majesty The King visited the area and met with the armed forces, officials and volunteers giving them a major moral boost. The efforts have been successful as of date as the water has not flooded the nearby settlements.

In addition to this there were several main highway road blockages all over Bhutan most of which have been cleared while others are being cleared (see main story).

In addition the main bridge on the Samtse highway to Sipsu collapsed into the river on 22nd July as parts of its base got washed. A slide at Trongsa-Zhemgang highway destroyed the bridge there as well.


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