Bhutan: forest fire destroy 300-year-old monastery

Forest fire destroy 300-year-old monastery

3 March 2008

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Bhutan — A 300-year-old lhakhang (monastery) was razed to the ground by a forest fire that started on Thursday, above Satsam Chorten in Paro district, and has still not been brought under control.

According to a Paro dzongkhag official, nothing could be salvaged from the Dogsum lhakhang, a private lhakhang, which was destroyed in minutes by the fire.

The lhakhang was the dengsa (seat) of Dupthob Sangay Bjorden, according to the Paro Dzongda, Namgay Wangchuk. “All the nangtens were destroyed,” he said. The owner and the caretaker left for Satsam Chorten to call for help when the fire destroyed the lhakhang.

Another fire, which started above the Taktshang Goenpa (Tiger’s Nest) also destroyed hundreds acres of forest. But no loss of property was reported.

Meanwhile, the capital city of Thimpu was engulfed under a thick blanket of smoke when the forest fire, that started above the Dechencholing Goenpa, at the same time as the Paro fire, could not be brought under control for almost two days.

On Friday morning, visibility was reduced to about 200 metres when smoke engulfed the capital city. Hundreds of volunteers from the Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Body Guards, and forestry officials are still fighting the fire.

The fire was suspected to have caused by a spark from an electrical transmission line. Fire fighters told Kuensel that the steep cliff and falling stones made it difficult to fight the fire.

Some Thimphu residents called up the media saying that the fire had engulfed the Wangditse monastery when huge billows of smoke started arising from behind. However, the fire has not as feared spread to the monastery.

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