As we drove home earlier this evening, my wife noticed that Taba was in total darkness. And she observed that the residents were huddled, in the dark, outside their houses. It was an eerie sight.

We were driving, so we hadn’t felt the earth move. A powerful earthquake, measuring 6.9 units, had hit the Himalayas. Its epicenter was reportedly in Sikkim.

In Bhutan, thankfully, no major damages have been reported. But posts on Twitter indicate that the tremors were felt throughout our country. I’m concerned about our farm houses, old monasteries and dzongs – they, and their residents, are the most vulnerable. And I’m especially concerned about them in our two western most dzongkhags, Haa and Samtse – they border the Indian state of Sikkim.

If required, please help your neighbours. Please cooperate with the authorities. And please, please stay safe.

UPDATE: Hearing reports of cracks in houses, including some in the Tashichhodzong. Also, several landslides along Thimphu – Phuentsholing highway.

UPDATE: Several houses damaged in upper Haa. Three people referred to Thimphu hospital. A few others treated for minor injuries.

UPDATE: More information on PM’s Facebook page.


Facebook Comments:


  1. It is really difficult to get the updates when services like mobiles services are congested and social networks blocked. It was lucky that at least the data card was working and could update the news and keep updated and keeping in touch with people around and afar else it is total chaos and dead.

  2. Happy to know that not much damage happened in Bhutan. All communications were down n we couldn’t make any calls also. I dont understand why BBS being the sole news media didn’t mention much about the quake yesterday, instead they were airing some stupid programs. we were curiously watching bbs online yesterday but not much news were broadcasted. I guess it good that we ll finally get more media news agency in the country competing with BBS.

  3. Sombeb Gyeltshen says

    Your excellency, what i heard from the people of Nakha through phone is true, they say that few houses suffered major damages and many sustained minor cracks. Mangmi is there in our village and he is inspecting the damages la. But it was confirmed that there was no casualties. But people are still residing outside their houses. They’re hearing lots of rumors of another such earthquake.
    Yours sincerely

  4. BBS coverage yesterday at that particular moment was too stupid. They can learn something if not all from NDTV and others. BBS has lot to do and would look forward to grow

  5. We Bhutanese were really lucky yesterday and we have a lot to be thankful for except Bmobile.

    OL, please raise the issue of Bmobile. We are not happy with what happened yesterday. Bmobile failed us during the most critical time. People were very worried about their relatives but Bmobile betrayed us. There is no reason and excuse for Bmobile’s failure and we demand explanation and people held responsible. If Tashicell was able to function fine, why Bmobile. If Bmobile cannot help people during emergencies then what is their use. It is like the old saying, a thoughtless bjob leans on a basket without realizing the basket was empty so he falls down.

  6. Bhutan Telecom’s customer service is going from bad to worse.

    For ordinary people, if your phone or internet connection is broken, it is almost impossible to get somebody to repair the connection. You have to almost bribe the serviceman.

    What a shame!

  7. Yangka Chojay says

    Oh! What a scary moment yesterday was. I was out of sight when the earth was quake. I was on the way to Dinner in our college Kitchen, at the spur of moment, i heard the sound like birds flying, with the making wonderful voices by our college girls who are attaining the eve prayers. Yesterday was very unforgettable event/days for me. It was my first time experiencing till from the Birth. “Lama Kencho Sum Khen No” Thanks……….!

  8. Dear mr Truth & Dorji,

    Just to content your frustration, here is the reasons for B Mobile congestion stated by Offttg GM B Mobile.
    “Let me take this opportunity to offer my side of explanation on why there was disruption in our network. I may be wrong but from what I have observed in our traffic reports, I would say that there was congestion in our channels due to which congestion was triggered. But that doesn’t mean that our system is under dimensioned to handle our subscriber bases. I am sure you would agree with me when I say that there was not hue and cry about our network just before the quake which is an indication of being adequately dimensioned to cater for our subscriber base.

    Our registered subscriber base currently stands around 390K but not all of them are active subscribers. Hardly 265K to 290K of them remain active anytime. For these active subscribers, our network is provisioned with about 14K channels. Roughly speaking, it’s about 1 channel for every 20 Subsribers. According to normal dimensioning practice, even this is considered as a little over dimensioned to handle about 290K or even 300K active subscriber base. You may wonder why not dimension for 390K. Even for 390K if they are ever active, just about 10K channels are needed. Also you may wonder why only 1 channel for 20 subscribers. Well, this has to do with modelling of traffic handling in our system based on an assumption of random arrival of calls using Poisson Distribution in most cases. This means all 20 people will have random and unpredictable calling behavior thus it is rare for all 20 people to make calls at a same time. Therefore, from design perspective 1 channel is sufficient for 20 even up to 25 subscribers to experience fairly good service with the assumption that the call arrivals in the network are random. However, the problem arises when all these 20 people must call at the same time which is now not random. Usually such time arises in times of calamity or disaster. Everybody wants to call each other at almost the same time. But remember there is only 1 channel for them. For all of them to get access to each other we would actually need 1 channel for 1 subscriber during such time otherwise, severe congestion is inevitable.

    Technically it is possible but not a wise business choice to have it. Any further increase in this ratio would mean further investment. Of course to improve, we can always think of improving this ratio and even I am for it to up to 1:5 or 10 and if no problem at all then 1:1 would be desirable.

    Well that was the scenario then. I think even the best of the networks in the world would suffer from such problems during times of such disasters as evident from places in West Bengal and other places that have been struck with such disasters.

    > From our side, we are always trying our best to provide good quality
    services to our customers. And we take this as another lesson to improve ourselves further.

    If we have disappointed you or our customers, it wasn’t our intention. I am sorry for that.”

  9. Yangka Chojay says

    Dear Zamthap,

    Thanks for your Further info about the network problems.

  10. Zamtap..

    Instead of going on defending your side of excuses why don’t you atleast accept that you have failed for once and that you will do better next time.
    Well when you say your cell is designed to carry 14,000 customers and boasting of 390K customers ..something is definitely not right somewhere. I guess you need to plan your network accordingly and ofcourse leave room for such contingencies too.

    And yes your Offtg. GM said SMSing would ahve been better but even SMS were not going through.

    Instead of being defensive, I think this incidence is something from which you can learn and work accordingly.

  11. Zamtap, your explanation makes sense if BT is a private company, but BT is a public company whose mandate is to provide good service, I don’t think saving money is more important than saving lives.

    Also Bmobile has habit of shutting down their network during natural calamities to avoid loses. I remember reading about it in kuensel few months ago, where Bmobile purposely shut down their system because they were scared the lightening or something might cause damage to the system. Now you tell me, are their properties worth more than lives. What if people want to make emergency call during such disasters.

  12. Yangka Chojay says

    Dear Truth,

    I like the way you express your feelings openly. I also think that way as same to you but on the spur of moment when i saw the comments on this site i was very much glad to share….!

  13. BITTER TRUTH says

    last september was 6.1, this was 6.8…. what will happenit nextone is 7!!! earthquake resistance building designs & earthquake insurnce should be our top priorityt. OL please raise these issues in the parliamant and get the govt to work on it.

  14. Thanks Yangka Chojay, I think those us us blessed with voice and facilities should speak for the majority of the Bhutanese who are voiceless.

    Here is the kuensel article.
    Heavy rain disrupts telephone services

    Gomtu had no telephone services twice last month

    1 August, 2011 – During monsoon, it doesn’t rain in Samtse. It pours.

    And when sheets of rain is accompanied by lightning and storm, Gomtu in Samtse loses its telephone network system.

    In July alone, the network tower was disrupted twice by the storm, which went on, once for about six hours straight.

    With no other alternatives, Bhutan Telecom officials in Gomtu said they had to shut down the network, for both mobile and landlines, until the storm subsided despite complaints from residents.

    Gomtu residents are not happy with the service because even when there is no rainstorm, the mobile network is usually weak.

    Bhutan telecom’s in-charge in Gomtu, Nima, said they are not intentionally shutting the network down. “If we don’t shut down the network’s internal connection would be damaged,” he said. “Its a precautionary measure we have to take.”

    With the technical engineer out of station, fixing the network system is time consuming, which effects service,” he said. “That’s because those in station lack skills to restore the network system promptly.”

    Bank of Bhutan’s manager in Gomtu, Tandin said its a problem when both landline and mobile networks are not working.

    While with telephone lines disconnected for about a week at the Pagli gewog centre, office works had to be kept on hold, said the gewog’s clerk Leela Prasad Chhetri.

    Dorji Gyeltshen, who runs a public call office in Gomtu town, said maintenance works are promptly carried out by the telecom staff every time the network is disrupted.

    “Rainstorms are common at this time of the year and telephone lines are snapped when branches fall on the wires,” he said.

    But telecom staff argue that they are working day and night and overtime as well to improve telecommunication services.

    One of them, Sonam Rinchen said they are working on a new network system called Next Generation Network, to improve mobile network in Gomtu.

    By Dawa Dakpa

    Don’t they have insurance for such purposes?.

  15. was just wondering..
    ..even as hm the king mobilises relief efforts & the 4th druk gyalpo is concerned enough to visit tashichho dzong, the pm is busy in nyc, attending dinners & receptions..(I wonder who pays for his wife’s trips when she accompanies him..)
    call it weird, but ever since this govt took office, the number of disasters has noticeably increased..fires, earthquakes, windstorms, motor accidents, air crash..stuff that was rare or never happened appear commonplace now..& with regular frequency..maybe it’s coincidence, maybe they’re jinxed, maybe the one up there is showing us something..

  16. Tenzin penjore says blocked, possibly by the dpt govt. Kuenselonline forum would not publish anything against the gov, is DPT gov stiffling our rights given by our constitution?

  17. Isnt it a reminder that we should not build tall houses. I know that we ahve limited land and it is wise to go vertical to save space and gain hieght BUT we in Bhutan have lots of land lying idle for people to build. Now you will think I am stupid whay I say this when land is a scarce resource. However, we are surrounded with ample empty land immersed in forests (government land). Why do we all ahve to crowd in the valley and let the land price sky rocket. Isn’t it time now for the government to allocate some government land for development. Look around Thimphu, all teh barrent hills can be developed with good roads and land allocated to public for lease, for purchase or award to institutions to build and develop. This way , the land price will come under control and this way, people will develop nice looking homes and apartments that are just 2-3 storeyed and nice looking in a traditional manner instead of going vertical and making everything look so ugly.

    Carve nice roads into the hills (The barren ones) we see around and give it out in various schemes to people to develop. I am sure we can all gain meaningfully for both government and the private and the common citizens. Some drastic measures are necessary now. Just a thought la.

  18. Yangka Chojay says

    Thanks Truth, Thanks for your articles. Surely they’ve insurance, why not.

  19. The explanation provided by the Bhutan Telecom is just a lame excuse. How many times such explanation will go on. Instead the public company should instead break even to show the improvement and not just provide bonus for those working in these sectors.
    Hope there would be provision for contigencies.

  20. I agree with Ap Naka. It is high time to regulate the buildings more strickly than before. Develop satellite towns for Thimphu or in other Dzongkhags so that we avoid crowding in urban areas.

    THIMPHU NEEDS HELP URGENTLY. I saw a notice where RICB is going to build a four storeyed parking. I am for it. Well done and it is a great initiative. Kudos to the CEO Namgey Lhendup. Hope it is not just an idea but realize it and show others or the CITY what you can do.

    The new mayor should now think of buying some old houses in the middle of tow, dismantle them and create parking spaces. Pay them good money in return and help the urban society by creating parkings. There is a building (small house) opposite Druk Hotel and also one near the traffic. Please don’t allow them to build buildings there. Buy that place and make open space of parkings for everyone.

    My two cents.

  21. Wai Tobden, Don’t politicise every thing. If you truely beleive in what you are saying by linling the disasters to the DPT government, why do you think it is happening elewhere. It is people like you who misleads others and creates panic and confusion. Come to the 21st century, my friend.

  22. If disaster is going to happen it will happen-no matter what. Folks, start believing in the immutable law of nature. Indian sub-continent is going under the Euro-Asian plate, and this process will continue as long as it takes. Meanwhile, please refrain from building high rise structure because we are located in seismic hot spot area. Follow structural plan wherein earthquake proof design is incorporated. Read as many earthquake precautions as there are in the internet. Stop blaming political parties for it is not their making–perhaps, BBS and DMD responses could have been quicker.

    Thank God, Bhutan did not suffer as much as our neighbours–very grateful to our guardian deities.It may sound weired to write this, but at time of disaster we can turn only to almighty–man above everything alse.


  23. FLODDED FOR A WEEK! says

    yea the earth quake disaster was so big to shake even the biggest nations and on top of this it is totally should have patience that such a resque & rehab cant happen on the spot & in a flash as most of us expect to be.
    but it is extremely shocking to see that the road between centenary farmers market and the changlimithang stadium remained floded for almost a week( from the start of the trade fair till the end of the trade fair). it made one think that even we do not have resources to clear a flodded road & blocked drain for a week!

  24. Tenzin penjore says

    We are having one of the biggest earthquakes and our PM Jigmi Y. Thinley is busy globetrotting. Is his New York and other cushy trips more important than our poor people suffering aftermath of the earthquake. His government has conveniently blocked a very popular site after it was filled with several damaging stories of the PM and his gang of unscrupulous leaders having been involved with acquiring lands from poor farmers and having alloted to thelselves. Our GNH country has so many rape cases and incidents of crime and umemployment.

    What is OL doing on this?

  25. The recent NY visit by the PM and his wife with a census officer to please the Bhutanese residents may not have the positive impact it was intended to have. The Americans are going to get stricter on their visa rules on Bhutanese who genuinely need to visit that country for business and studies. Also, I hear that the PM’s wife collects quite a bit of money from the residents, purportedly for some good causes. We should know how transparent the fund is and to whom it is accountable. I know of a few who refuse to participate in this enterprise.

  26. i hope it doesn’t..why shd bhutanese in nyc be chosen for a census..there are many bhutanese in other states in the us, besides those in europe, australia, .. in any case, the ones there, most of them, are either geteys, divorcees, or have left their families behind purportedly going there to help them..
    as a bhutanese, it is embarrasing to hear the stories of bhutanese women spreading their legs for the geteys, tibetans & nepalese..of how bhutanese women are found drunk & being grabbed by chilips for only one purpose..
    they are mostly illegal there, & pm jigmi thinley should never endorse such breach of laws, even american laws.. then there are those with dual bhutanese & american citizenship..
    i believe collecting donations requires approval.. even if the pm’s wife is doing so..she holds no public office, so her foreign trips with her man needs scrutiny..i saw some footage of her at paro airport during the saarc summit in 2010 – she had her rachu the way our royals wear it..ostentatious, or what??!!!

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