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Two Bhutanese soldiers die, two missing in rescue operation

DIGEST-ENG-22-07-2020-Bhutan

Two soldiers of the Royal Bhutan Army in Gelephu drowned in the Maokhola and another two went missing Monday while attempting to rescue five people who got stranded in the middle of the river.

The five soldiers were a part of a rescue team who tried to cross the river with ropes tied around their bodies to rescue the stranded people near Thromde’s water treatment plant. One of the five soldiers was rescued halfway before reaching the stranded people. He was saved using excavators by other rescue team members. The survivor was immediately referred to the Gelephu central referral hospital (CRRH).

Following heavy rainfall, water level of the Maokhola increased suddenly and changed course flooding the Thromde water treatment plant area.

The five stranded people were rescued around 8 pm after nearly six hours of rescue operation. However, search for the other two soldiers were ongoing despite the rising water level.

The five stranded in the middle of the river had left to see their stone crusher machine located at the Maokhola dredging sites, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the rescue team after continuing the search, managed to find two bodies. Army, police, and dzongkhag officials present at the spot immediately called for additional excavators and rescue safety ropes.

Sarpang dzongdag, Karma Galay said ropes were tied to excavators and the rescue members were wearing life jackets when the incident happened. There are three excavators deployed along with the rescue officials.

Gelephu Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said they were also trying to rescue the caretaker of the treatment plant who is also stranded at the plant, which is also flooded.

“The rescue effort started immediately after officials were informed about the rising water level near the treatment plant as Maokhola changed its course and started flowing from near the girls football academy at Shetikhari.

“We came to know about the people being stranded after reaching the site. The rescue work started at around 3:15 pm,” he said.

Gelephu received continuous rainfall for the most part of the day Monday.