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Record rainfall 2009

8 October, 2009

Major rivers swelled, all Drukair flights were cancelled, landslides blocked national highways, Chukha shut down for three hours and paddy cultivation in some areas is in danger of being damaged because of the heavy rainfall over the past two days, the highest ever recorded for the month of October since 1996.

There is more to come, with forecasts of continued showers till Friday evening, according to the meteorological section and the flood warning section.

The rainfall, which started around 7 pm on Tuesday evening, has hit all 20 dzongkhags, with the heaviest showers in southern Bhutan, followed by western Bhutan.

Eastern Bhutan has so far been less affected, but this could change over the next 24 hours with Norwegian satellite imagesshowing dense rain clouds heading east.

Indian weather satellite images show a large area covered with clouds, caused by an upper air cyclonic circulation over the Indian state of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The clouds are covering Bhutan and the parts of eastern and central India.

"This kind of heavy precipitation at this time of the year is abnormal and unexpected, as the post and pre monsoon season in Bhutan is from July 1 to September 30," said the meteorological head, Kunzang Sonam.

The rainfall recorded in the last 30 hours so far, from 9 am Tuesday till 3 pm Wednesday, shows 166.8 mm in Sipsu in the south, 51.77 mm in Thimphu, 64.5 mm in Wangduephodrang and 59.22 mm in Zhemgang. The earthquake hit areas of Mongar and Trashigang have received 28 mm and 27.8 mm till Tuesday 3 pm so far.

Meteorological officer, Sonam Tashi, said that the clouds were of the 'status' type, coupled with high moisture of 90 to 100 percent, indicated that the rain would be continuous. What is also not helping matters is that this is a low-pressure rainfall, which means the absence of winds to blow away the clouds.

The rains also lead to the swelling of rivers, with the Thimpuchu swelling from 1.80 m on Monday to 2.20 m by Tuesday 5 pm. Other rivers that swelled were the Amochu in Dorokha from 3.00 m to 4.40 m, Punatsangchu from 1.75 m to 2.70 m, Sunkosh from 1.70 m to 3.90 m, Mangdechu from 6 m to 7.55 m, Kurichu from 7.10 m to 8.05 m and Aietchu in Gelephu from 1.60 m to 3.30 m.

Several streams, especially in western and southern Bhutan, also swelled up. The department of disaster management has issued an advisory for people to avoid these rivers.

The rains blocked the Dagana-Dagapela highway at three places. Meanwhile, during the day, temporary landslide blockades on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu, Trongsa-Gelephu and Bumthang-Mongar highways were cleared.

"If the rains continue as forecast, up to 50 percent of the roads could be blocked due to slides," said department of roads director, Sangay Tenzin. An engineer said that the earthquake had already weakened the surface in eastern Bhutan and more rain could lead to more slides.

Officiating director of agriculture G B Chettri said that, if the rain continued it could pose a threat to rice plantations through flooding and also logging, whereby plants fall due to the weight of water. He said currently that rice in Chukha, Dagana and Tsirang were the most vulnerable, since the crops were yet to ripen. Crops in other areas could be vulnerable to flooding.

Drukair cancelled outgoing flights from Kolkata, Bangkok and Bagdogra. "We hope the weather improves by tomorrow, otherwise there may be further delays and cancellations," said the Drukair MD Tandin Jamtsho.

Chukha had to shut down for a few hours after logs and debris from a swollen Wangchu blocked the surfaces. Tala however is operating at full capacity.


Effects of the downpour (October 2009)

Major Rivers and streams swell up
All Drukair flights cancelled yesterday
Chukha shut down for three hours
Dagana road blocked and threat to 50% of all roads.

Dagana isolated for the third time

8 October, 2009 - Dagana has been cut off for the third time this year, after heavy rainfall since October 6 caused landslides and blocked the 87 km Sunkosh-Dagana road at four places.

The October 6 rains had swollen the Baligangchu, 53 km away from Sunkosh towards Dagana, making it impossible for vehicles to ply the bypass through the Baliganchu. The bypass was made after the Balingchu bridge was washed away in August.

According to the department of roads' assistant engineer in Dagapela, C B Mongar, a major landslide occurred in Dagachu, 24 km away from Sunkosh, where falling boulders pose a great risk for commuters.

In Ambichu, 37 km away and Khagochen, 55 km away, minor landslides occurred and in Nidukha, 75 km away, heavy landslides occurred.
C B Mongar said that continuous rain had swollen the Dagachu. "If the rain doesn't stop, I'm afraid the bridge might be washed away," he said.
The health minister, Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa, who is on tour in Dagana is stranded in Dagapela.

Road clearing work will begin today, but road officials say that it is difficult to clear the road, as sliding boulders and mud threaten workers and landslides occur time and again.

The rain has also disrupted the transmission towers in Dagana. "The lights went off by 5 pm," said a resident of Dagapela.

Meanwhile, vehicles plying between Trongsa and Gelephu were stranded at Reutala, 23 km away from Zhemgang, because of a landslide.

Contributed by Tashi Dema, Kuensel 2009


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