Flash Floods Kill 10 People in Bhutan; Seven Missing in Nepal

By Reuters
June 16, 2021 Updated: June 16, 2021

KATHMANDU, Nepal—Flash floods triggered by heavy rains washed away a remote mountain camp in Bhutan on June 16, killing 10 people and injuring five, while floods in neighboring Nepal left seven people missing, authorities said.

The Bhutan villagers, who had been collecting cordyceps, a fungus used in medicine, were sleeping when the floodwaters hit just after midnight. Their camp near Laya, about 60 km (37 miles) north of the capital Thimphu, was washed away, local media reported.

“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,” Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said in a statement.

Two helicopters were mobilized to evacuate the injured, and rescuers from the armed forces were heading to the site, which can only be reached after 11 hours of walking from the nearest road.

flash floods
A general view shows houses hit by flash floods along the bank of Melamchi River in Sindhupalchok, Nepal, on June 16, 2021. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

Villagers in Bhutan and neighboring Nepal go to high meadows every year to collect cordyceps, which is believed to have potential health benefits.

The villagers were camping by the side of a small stream between two small hills, The Bhutanese newspaper said.

“It is believed they were washed away by the flood coming down the stream,” it said.

In Nepal, Home Ministry official Dil Kumar Tamang said seven people were missing after overnight rains in Sindhupalchowk district, which borders the Tibet region of China, triggered flash floods in the Melamchi river inundating dozens of homes.

“We are collecting details of losses,” Tamang told Reuters.

Witnesses said several people in Melamchi had moved to higher ground with their belongings, while army helicopters were rescuing those trapped in their houses.

Authorities urged people living along the Narayani river, which flows into India as the Gandak, to remain alert as the river was flowing above the danger level.

Nepal and Bhutan have been lashed by heavy rains in the past three days, at the start of the annual monsoon season.