In a tragic incident at Laya village under Gasa district in North Bhutan, 10 people died and five others were injured after a camp full of cordeycep (fungus used in medicines) collectors was washed away in a flash flood that occurred after midnight on Wednesday. The Cordyceps Collection Site is at Tshari-Jathang, Ri-Druzhi.
Laya is located 3,800 metres above sea-level in the northern Himalayan region of Bhutan bordering Tibet.
Prime Minister of Bhutan Dr Lotay Tshering, who is on a tour of the border areas with His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, sent his condolences to the bereaved families. A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Our hearts are with the people of Laya today, as we hear about the tragedy that struck a group of cordeycep collectors in the highland.”
The statement added: “I join the nation in offering prayers and condolences to the bereaved families and community of Laya. At the same time, I urge everyone across the country to avoid visiting or camping by the riverside, and to be cautious of such possible mishaps during monsoon.”
The Prime Minister assured that along with the local authorities and medical teams, rescue efforts are coordinated since 3 am.
According to information, the cordeycep collectors were camped in between two small hills with a stream flowing in between. Singey, a resident of Laya, said there was heavy rainfall in the area after 11 pm on Tuesday.
According to Tshering, the head of Laya, five others were severely injured. Two choppers have been mobilised for the ongoing rescue and relief efforts. Rescue teams, including personnel from armed forces, forestry and gewog are travelling to the site.
The five injured persons were evacuated and taken to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu by the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service. Reports say two of the injured persons are in critical condition.
19 DeSuups (Guardians of peace-keeping body), including the Laya Mangmi (local leader) are on their way to Tshari-Jathang. They are expected to reach the site by late Wednesday evening. It takes about 11 hours to reach the accident site from Laya.
According to the Mangmi, there were around 40 people in the camp at Tshari-Jathang. Among the 10 victims, three are men and seven are women. Three bodies have been recovered so far and being airlifted to Gasa.
Meanwhile, cordycep collectors and medical team from JDWNRH are searching for the bodies of seven others killed in the mishap. The rescue teams have reportedly expressed worry over the persisting inclement weather conditions, which may delay the search efforts.