Death Toll Rises As Monsoon Floods Hit Bhutan And Nepal

Commuters make their way through flooded roads following heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on June 9, 2021. PHOTO: Punit PARANJPE / AFP


At least a dozen people have been killed in Bhutan and Nepal and several others are missing as torrential monsoon rains hit the region, triggering landslides and inundating homes, officials said Thursday.

The annual monsoon season is crucial to replenish water supplies across South Asia, but it also causes death and destruction.

Ten collectors of cordyceps — a fungus valued for its alleged aphrodisiac properties — died when their remote mountain camp north of Bhutan’s capital Thimpu has washed away early Wednesday.

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Five others were injured and were in a stable condition in hospital, officials said.

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering offered his prayers and condolences and said a rescue team had been sent to the site.

“I urge everyone across the country to avoid visiting or camping by the riverside, and to be cautious of such possible mishaps during (the) monsoon,” he added in a message on Facebook.

In Nepal, the bodies of two Chinese workers were recovered on Thursday from Sindhupalchok near the capital Kathmandu, taking the total death toll from floods in the district to three.

Their bodies were found more than a hundred kilometres from where they had initially been swept away by the overflowed Melamchi River, officials said.

Thirteen others are still missing while hundreds more were displaced from their homes, they added.

“We still see possibilities of rescuing alive those who are missing, because some of them could be taking shelter in safer places,” Arun Pokharel, the local district chief, told AFP.

More than 70 people have been rescued so far.

But rescue efforts have been hampered by telecommunication failures in the area, Pokharel added.

The number of deadly floods and landslides has increased in recent years in Nepal. Experts say climate change and more road construction could be triggering deadly disasters.

More than 200 people were killed in landslides and floods during last year’s monsoon season in Nepal.


Bhutan Records First Coronavirus Death

In this file photo taken on December 8, 2020 a member of staff draws the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine out of a phial at the Southmead Hospital, Briston. Graeme Robertson / AFP / POOL


The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan on Friday recorded its first coronavirus death after 10 months of seeking to isolate itself from the global pandemic.

A 34-year-old man, who had chronic liver disease, died in a hospital in the capital Thimpu after testing positive for the coronavirus on December 23. The health ministry announced his death “with immense grief”.

The tiny country wedged between India and China has banned virtually all scheduled flights since March and the government said there have been no foreign tourists in the kingdom for several months.

Authorities imposed a tough lockdown in December after a woman who had been abroad developed Covid-19 symptoms. The woman and her contacts had travelled across the country of 750,000 people.

Since early December the number of cases has grown from about 400 to 770. The relatively low 15-17 cases added each day would reassure most countries, but they have shocked Bhutan.

“The current outbreak is much bigger than the last outbreak,” the health ministry said.

People must get permission to travel outside their districts or to go abroad, and in Thimpu and the neighbouring district of Paro, “special movement” cards are needed just to go to the shops for essentials.

Karma Tenzin, who runs a popular Indian restaurant in the capital, said the lockdown had been hard.

“I am still paying the rent and salaries, we are finding it difficult to make ends meet,” he said.

The government says it is in talks with India and other countries to secure deliveries of coronavirus vaccines as they become available.