Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Experience of Earthquake in September 2011

September, 2011 in Bhutan is an unforgettable moment for me. My team who visited the remote and tiny Shebji village in Haa district will always remember this trip. Our team consisting of Stig Dalstrom, Thomas Hoijer and officials from Ministry of Agriculture and Forests begun the journey from Thimphu towards Shebji, Haa to explore the orchid diversity in the region.

Well, we planned our journey on 17th the beautiful morning of September but couldn’t make it as our team member Stig had severe backache and was bedridden and could hardly move. He was referred to the hospital and while back in the hotel, a pop sound from his back warded off the pain away. To our surprise he was completely back to normal and he eagerly wanted to start the journey at the earliest. Thus, we began our journey towards Haa, where we halt a night. While at Haa, some more foresters joined our team and had really good discussions and planned our adventurous journey into the wild.

It was a fine morning and I could hear the birds chirping. Well, we were all set to travel towards Tegola but unfortunately our car ran out of fuel. So, we headed towards the fuel station only to find electric power shut down and the station didn’t work. Hence, our driver went around Haa town and managed to get few liters of fuel from private drivers. Once again we begun the journey.

Road construction has just begun and it was still in its first cut and was filled with muddy bumps and it seemed be have rained all through the night. We stopped halfway since car couldn’t travel further due to slippery road surface and waited for the horses to arrive. So with the horses, we started to walk down the hills. We walked down the hills for nearly 6 hours on a rain-wet trail. We were all split up and I was somewhere in the beginning with Bakta and Sangay and horses somewhere in the middle.

Shebji Village

It was beginning to get dark and I just climbed to a hill in Shebji from where I could see Bakta about to get nearer to an old traditional two storied house. I was just staring at the house and all of a sudden I could hear ghostly loud sound commencing from an old house and in the blink of an eye the whole earth beneath me shook. I could hear boulders fall, tree branches breaking and some animal noises. That feeling could resemble the near to death feeling. I was completely blank and I didn’t know where my mind was, I was just standing there. Within few seconds Sangay shouted at me to stand in the middle of the open field and I saw him shouting to Bakta as well. Bakta too was just standing and staring at the old house. Within seconds, three of us were standing in the middle of an open ground and after few minutes everything was calm. Some of the villagers also came out running towards us and we all stood in the middle of the ground for a while.

It was so frightening and the worst part is when some of the team mates are still missing. Immediate thoughts like “where are they? Are we going to make through it? How can I rescue them?” were arising spontaneously. So, we all decided to get into the old house and after few minutes few of our mates arrived, still few were missing. After some 15 minutes, Thomas along with some horsemen arrived making some loud noises as usual but the noise he made that moment sounded so aggressive and terrified. We laid him down near the fire and let him have warm soup, he felt very cold. Some of us started to hand pick numerous blood sucking leeches from him, his body had full of it and shirts blood stained. We were told that he was all alone when the incident happened. While he walking, the trail just was washed away, so he jump upwards and laid down for few seconds but he felt hundreds of leeches climbing on him. Finally, he managed to climb on a tree upon which he was spotted by some horsemen and was brought down. Horses were without luggage on its backs yet looked so terrified. Luggage were placed somewhere on the trail, since the horses started to fall down as the tremor occurred.

Bakta, Guman and few horsemen went to look for Stig and friends after spotting a tiny light from far away in the dark from other side of the slope. We could see them responding to out lights. Finally, we were all altogether but very scared. I heard that Stig and friends during the thunderous earthquake they were all set to face any consequences that would fall upon them and decided to spend the night in the forest at some safe spot.

Now that everyone was well aware of the aftershock after some local people heard from their friend through telephone and radio. Unfortunately, both telephone and radio didn’t work so well, it was just not working though. Hence, we spent the night out in the field for few days.

Still the memories seem to be fresh; I can feel how 2015 Nepal earthquake has effected the people.

PS: No Proof Read

We spent our few days in this traditional house, sorry near the house.


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