People in Khotang are forced to charter helicopters in times of sickness as roadways are blocked by landslidesDistrict chief Bishnu Hari Upadhayay tells journalists ‘to not report on unnecessary matters’ when he was asked about the delay in road repair.
Forty-year-old Bimala Rai of Khotehang Rural Municipality in Khotang district contracted typhoid earlier this week. She was receiving medical treatment at the local health post. But there was no significant progress in her condition.
Her family decided to take her to a well-equipped health facility in the Capital but all transportation services were halted due to landslides at various places in the district.
Eventually, Rai’s family chartered a helicopter and took her to Kathmandu for further treatment. Rai is currently receiving care at Bir Hospital. “It cost us over Rs 200,000 just to take her [Bimala] to the hospital,” said Bimala’s husband Shivaraj Rai. “We don’t know how much money we’ll have to spend for the treatment. This has become a big financial problem for us.”
The same story is playing out across the district, especially among those in need of emergency medical treatment. Kopilasgadi, and Khotehang rural municipalities, and Diktel Rupakot Majhuwagadi Municipality, among other areas in Khotang, have been cut off from other districts for a week since monsoon kicked in.
Sambhu Poudel, 32, an employee at Rawabesi Rural Municipality, sustained head injuries in a motorcycle accident. Faced with the same ordeal to receive treatment, his family was forced to charter a helicopter to get him proper medical attention. He was brought to Nepal Medical College in Jorpati where he underwent a head surgery and is currently recuperating.
Poudel’s wife Deepa Poudel said, “The rural municipality bore the cost of the helicopter and local villagers have also pledged to contribute to the medical expenses but I am not sure if the money will be enough. Chartering a helicopter has only added to our burdening medical bills.”
Chartering a helicopter is an expensive affair and costs around Rs200,000-Rs 250,000 per flight. And for people like Rai and Poudel who come from remote parts of the district, the option is either to spend a fortune booking a chopper or wait for the worst to happen.
Landslides triggered by incessant rains have obstructed various road sections across the district and the authorities’ apathy for repairing the landslide-hit stretches as soon as possible have added to the woes of Khotang locals.
Khotang Yatayat Pvt Ltd secretary Ram Kumar Hingmang said their plea for help was not answered. “We have already urged the district’s Transport Department, Road Department and District Administration Office to immediately repair the damaged road sections,” said Hingmang. “But despite the public facing difficulties the authorities have not paid heed to our demands.”
Landslides at various places along the Mid-hill Highway and Sagarmatha Highway in the district have cut many remote villages and municipalities from city areas where advanced medical facilities are located.
Monsoon this year arrived a few days late and rainfall had remained isolated throughout the country. But over the past week, the country has witnessed heavy rainfall which wreaked havoc across the country.
According to the data published by the National Emergency Operation Centre on Thursday, at least 90 people have died in floods and landslides across the country. NEOC Chief Bednidhi Khanal said 29 people have been missing and 41 others were injured adding that over 12,000 houses have been damaged due to the rain-induced disasters.
Asked about the delay in road repair, Chief District Officer Bishnu Hari Upadhayay responded rather defensively, asking journalists “to not report on unnecessary matters”.
Meanwhile, Bishal Bhattarai, a Member of Parliament from Khotang constituency-1, claimed that the authorities are working to resume operations on the damaged road sections and the roads will be maintained within a few days. But contrary to his claims many of the obstructed road sections are yet to be cleared of the landslide debris.
In the meantime, various local units in the district including Halesi-Tuwachung municipality and Diktel-Rupakot-Majhuwagadi municipality, have taken the task to resume transport operations in their own hands and have cleared the debris from various blocked road sections.
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