Govt. provided no assistance

Published on Sep 22 2011 // Human Rights Monitor
By Chencho Dema

Haa: More than 30 people from nine households of Gyensa village in Bji gewog, Haa are sharing a tent as their houses were damaged by the earthquake of September 18. The tent was given by a Royal Bhutan Army Officer yesterday. Till then, the families had taken shelter under a maruti van.

A 29-year-old tour guide, Wangchuk, said that there has been no help by the dzongkhag officials till date. “It is scary having to live in a tent with more than 30 people in the dark. Officials from the Bhutan Power Corporation Limited (BPCL) came here three times. We requested them for light but they said that the dzongkhag should provide the equipment,” he said, adding that he is feeling as if years have passed.

However, the Haa Dzongrab, Jamba Tenzin said that the dzongkhag is doing everything possible. Lack of manpower, scattered gewogs and villages and the need to assess the damages as quick as possible are hurdles that the dzongkhag faces. “We do not want to leave anyone unassisted. But people should understand that there are four gewogs with several villages which are scattered.”

He said that assessment and rescue teams were sent as soon as the earthquake struck and added that it is not wise to conduct the assessments fast. Reminding the problems that emerged in Trashiyangtse dzongkhag after the earthquake of September 21, 2009, because of improper assessments, the Dzongrab said everything should be conducted properly. “The government wants the report immediately, but most of the houses are cracked and it takes time to differentiate between the severely damaged and the minor ones. And to do this it takes time.”

When asked if the assistances could be provided first and the assessments done later, he said it would be better.

Concerning allegations that he did not visit the affected areas, Jamba Tenzin said someone has to stay in the headquarters for coordination. “Representatives from the dzongkhag are in the fields and I have to stay here to communicate with them and the Ministry in Thimphu.”

The Dzongrab clarified that tents and tarpaulins were issued right after the earthquake. “However, we could not give to everybody because we did not have enough.” He said the dzongkhag has purchased tarpaulin, which will be handed over to the people today.

Meanwhile, the nine families are still sharing the tent. “Sometimes, I feel like going into the damaged house. But, I get scared,” Wangchuk said, adding that the people are waiting for help.

In Bhutan Today 22 September 2011