English | Dzongkha Saturday, October 31, 2020

Wangduephodrang Dzong completely gutted

Jun 24, 2012

A major fire has completely destroyed the 374 years old Wangduephodrang Dzong today. The fire started at around 4 pm, razing one of the oldest and historic fortresses to the ground. Since the Dzong was under renovation before the fire, most of the sacred relics, which were relocated, have been saved.

The cause of the fire is yet to be confirmed.

Intense heat from the flames which raged unabated for hours, made it impossible for the firefighters to go near the Dzong. Also, the Dzong’s structure which follows the counter of a ridge over the Punatshangchu made the task for firefighters difficult. The flames fueled by strong winds raged for almost three hours.

For hours, the armed forces personnel, De-Suups, PHPA’s staff and the locals tried to contain the blaze. No casualties have been reported.

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Upon receiving the news, His Majesty the King and His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo rushed to the scene. The acting Prime Minister, Yeshey Zimba, along with the cabinet members and other officials were also at the scene.

Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba calls the incident a national tragedy and a huge loss to the country.

The historic fortress was built in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It was repaired in 1837 after a fire and an earthquake in 1897.

All the government machinery will remain closed tomorrow to reflect on the tragedy.

45 Comments for “Wangduephodrang Dzong completely gutted”

  1. How the incident happened

    • Sonam

      Its really sad and disheartened to see the Wangdi Dzong in fire! My mind went back to 9/11 (World trade center). I just want to know how the fire caught?

  2. namgay

    A sad and horrific sight indeed. A lesson to learn that too much traditional architecture of extensive timber use not viable. Dear engineers, planners and decision makers, it is time to think of modern materials and technology while conserving the tradition.

    • singye

      I do understand the sentiment behind @Namgay’s post. However, please keep in mind that also modern materials burn – even the most modern world trade twin towers in New York and other buildings built with modern materials also suffer from fire disasters.

      For example metals like steel and aluminium also buckles under intense fire and brings down the whole structure. There is unfortunately a misconception that modern materials mean fire safety. Infact they can be even more dangerous and fatal.

      If timber members are of large size, although they burn in fire, the outside part of timber beam or column chars in fire and maintains some structural intigrity. This means that in an actual fire, adequately sized timber members do not result in fatal deaths as they dont immediately collapse like steel structures – therefore more time to get out and save lives if timber structural members are adequately sized while modern steel members collapse and buckle all at once and lead to less changes of saving lives!

      Also it is good to keep in mind that monuments are special because they are made traditionally with natural materials crafted by local artists and craftsman. Otherwise, our dzongs will just be another poor example of a modern constructed metal and glass ugly buildings – what is special about that??


    AD very SAD….This is indeed a very big disaster and a great national loss. However, this is not a bad omen for the country. We are a Buddhist nation that embraces impermanence. It is a reminder to all of us of how positive we have to be in our everyday lives. This is not a time to blame anyone but time to reflect on this disaster and see how to prevent such a thing on another Dzong in the near future. The thinking and planning has to start from tomorrow and cannot leave anything to chance.
    I am grateful that His Majesty and the 4th HM King are also there to guide the control of the disaster. All other officials are also there like the Offtg PM, Home minister and others. I am sure the other lyonpos and officials are also there on the scene.

  4. Chewang

    I just can’t believe this! Horrendous…what a great loss to our country!! The saddest thing is I believe thousands of people are watching helplessly outside the Dzong even as 370 years of history burn down before their very eyes..I am saddened to the core of my heart!

  5. Bhutanese dovetail architecture is known for his excessive use of Timber! While I agree with you that the new dzong shan’t be made on the traditional plans! I also believe that the dzong has to represent the original architecture! Its the wiring and all that we have to be careful about! And the people who live and work in these dzongs! 😀

    • Is not the fate and destiny that we should blame for such tragedy, nor the officials working there. But I as the true citizen of Bhutan think that it is a national loss and each and every one of us are to be blamed. This tragedy is a real loss not in the terms of economical expenditure that the government and the people for centuries have spend to built such historical structure but I believe that it is a loss in terms of historical memories that this dzong caries. This tragedy had left a hole in every bhutanese and a red remarks in the history of Bhutan. Here, today I mourn with the TSA-WA-SUM of BHUTAN.

  6. This tragedy is a reminder; that nothing is permanent! Everything has to pass, things have to fall for new things to stack. Life has to end to start again! Everything will be spend after saving and departure after meet is eminent! Lord Buddha passed away to show that even Buddhas have to leave this world! This dzong might have just done the same!

  7. Kinga

    How sad to know that one of our oldest dzongs,Wangdue which appears like an elephant nose on the atop of wangchu,pleasing glimpse to many of the passer by is no more now.This doesn’t mean that it should be left as ashes.I think it would be better if RGOB could do as what has been done to once razed down Paro Taktshang

  8. cruisnae

    Its hard for us to digest what had happen rite now n i deeply mourn for the great loss of the nation n what i think is that what ever happens it happens for the best so that every one can live a good n peaceful life

  9. ugyen

    Never in my life time dreamed of such a disaster would befall in my country, is time for all of us to remember this as a time of great national loss. Lama Kenchosum Khenoo, nevertheless the main nangtens are secure.
    But however under the benovelonce of our Kings, the path will be shown to prevention of such disaster in all times to come.

  10. Sympathizer

    This is the time that all the citizens must come together and restore the Dzong to its original form…….we are gald to learn that precious relics are at safe place……so few years from now we must see a magnificent Wangduephorang once again elevating the hearts of all the people of Bhutan.

  11. Pema Chophel

    I am so, so sorry to hear this. Having visited the Dzong, I know how special this place was. My sympathy goes out to all Bhutanese worldwide.

  12. Kuenzang Wangdi

    Really sad news! Bhutanese should think together, act together, work together …. I can’t imagine the loss of one of the 20 wonders (Dzongs) of Bhutan! I feel so empty… Losing it!

    I feel so sorry for our beloved kings for taking trouble to lead Bhutan and the people in every aspects!.. I remain grateful for your magesty’s love and commpasions!

    I could not watch the beautiful Wangdue Dzong under flames on TV!

    Dear all, we should know that we had failed to prevent, protect & mitigate the wangdue  dzong disaster ! 
    But, now its the time we should ensure ourselves that …
    1.  Are we  really prepared to mitigate such disasters?
    2. Do we have effective disaster response & early warning system in place? 3. Do we have prompt & feasible relief  & reconstruction plans after disasters! 
    I would emphasis that we still need to strengthen & enhance point 1&2 to be more prepared to mitigate future disasters! M worried of our other Dzongs!

    Hopefully lets be contended…and remain clam in prayers and action …if the main ‘Nangtens’ were safely recovered as reported by bbs!

    To our beloved His Majesties the Kings, we the people of Bhutan should remain ever grateful.. 
    And responsible & accountable ones should stope  blame game …and be responsible & accountable for what we are paid to be responsible for!

    I join the people of Wangdue Dzongkhag  and Bhutan as a whole to not only morn the greatest loss of our nation!  But, to participate in preventing future tragic disasters! I pray for NO disasters for Beautiful Bhutan!

  13. Lodru

    Let us learn from this tragedy. The electrical wiring in our Dzongs and all other historic buildings needs to be brought up to the best international standards on a priority basis. Automatic smoke and fire alarms; and proper fire extinguishers and sprinklers need to be installed and inspected by qualified personnel at least every six months – and caretakers and other staff need to be properly trained to use them. Staff and monks in Dzongs should also have regular fire prevention awareness training. Bhutan probably also needs a dedicated and properly trained and equipped professional fire fighting service separate from the police and the army.

    • Rosalía Coll

      100% agree with you. An effective fire prevention is basic for preserve all this wonderful dzong. The solution is not change the traditional materials for architecture (this will be a great loss for the charming bhutanese style). prevention, prevention, prevention.

  14. ingki dorji

    Its really a big disaster and its very sad to see our one of the most oldest Dzong on fire… ……but we Bhutanese shouldn’t lose our hope and let us all mourn for a while for this disaster and lets pray nothing like this to happen any more with any other olden preserved traditions. its time for all of us to think same,do same and follow the right track which we being Buddhist should do.

  15. Sonam

    Oh my God………Its a very sad news for all the Bhutanese. We have lost one of our precious monuments. Whatever happened has happened but hope Government would inspect all the existing Dzongs and come up with proper strategies to cope up such disaster in future. In most of the Dzongs that i visited, the electric wires were poorly installed, there lacks adequate fire extinguisher and also i haven’t seen any emergency exists…..Fortunately the fire broke out on Sunday but if it was on working days, what would be the consequences in absence of emergency exists and fire started from the entrance………….Please do something to safe our ancient monuments………

  16. khandu

    I wonder why Elied Fire Ball Extinguisher didnt use wen evryone knows its best use……………… I request extra vigilance to be adopted in all the dzongs in the country.

  17. Alexis

    A tragedy indeed.

  18. tshering

    i didnt understand “All the government machinery will remain closed tomorrow to reflect on the tragedy”. Anyways a great loss to the nation.

  19. chokey

    i felt so helpless not being to my country … every Bhutanes were grieving. text messages passed for a few minutes prayer … a great loss but we shall over come together … :'(

  20. Dakpa Gyeltshen

    This is very great loss to the country, people and the Government. The news was really shocking and it made me numb which latter brought tears to my eyes. The tragedy shocked the world and it is felt by every being on this earth. However, we are helpless as it was beyond control. The windy atmosphere and the site of the Dzong being built on hill top might have made fire fighters’ life riskier and must have caused difficulty in bringing down the fire.

    I pray god to prevent us from such type of Tragedy.
    I pray god for peaceful life
    I pray god for never ending happiness

    Dakpa Gyeltshen
    Chulalongkorn University, BKK, Thailand

  21. It is really very sad to witness very tragic fire disaster of wangdi dzong one of the oldest and sacred dzong bneing razed to ground. I am very sad and disheartened.

  22. Drukpa Kinlay

    Very Huge loose. So Sorry to hear the sad news.

  23. Norbu Drukpa

    Dzong can be rebuilt but what about its aesthetic and historical value. I think it is lost forever that no architects in the world can restore it. Lam Shabdrung Rimpoche Chhak Sello.

  24. sharchokpa kota

    YA, It is very sad to hear, I pray god to never give us such a big big big tragedy. We cant think of this, it’s a big big loss to our peaceful country. But we know our country have a very good leadership and it will surely come up with a great idea how to help this great loss recover. Ofcouse we can’t get such thing back. But no way we can hope for the best.

  25. Its really very sad. its a great loss to Bhutan and all the Bhutanese but its little relief also that all the sacred relics has been saved.

  26. Chewang

    As we keep a day aside to reflect on this national tragedy, one sad thing that comes to my mind is that thousands of people watched helplessly and in despair even as the Dzong burnt down, part by part, in front of their very eyes. Even fire brigades couldn’t have done much, given the location and architecture of the Dzong.

    I genuinely feel that if we had a helicopter or two to release huge quantities of water from above the burning Dzong, the story could have been different. It’s common to see helicopters being deployed to contain such fires in other countries (aerial fire-fighting). I know it’s expensive for the government but I think we really need it. A few years back, 6 or 7 boys were washed away by the Wangchhu river in Chukha..had there been a helicopter, they could have been saved..

    There isn’t much that we can do about what has happened but there is so much that we can do about the future. This is what we are supposed to reflect on today. Procuring at least one helicopter for the country to be used for disaster mitigation and rescue operations would go a long way. We need to realize that all our sacred Dzongs and monasteries are on such strategic locations where conventional firefighting by men and fire brigades cannot do much. Let the Wangdue disaster be an eye-opener, let it be a wake up call for all concerned.

  27. S. Pelden

    such an unexpected tragic obstacle naturally aroused emotions in my heart and tears in my eyes.
    i just can’t believe my ears and those scenes of last night and this morning.
    however, we, the poor people of the nation are helpless since it was out of control.

    S. Pelden

  28. Pema Rigzin

    Sir , As i being tour guide the happen of fire damage in Wangdue Dzong is becauss of electric shot cause i have seen there is line damage in all the dzongs… i have seen there is line out off pipe all the Dzongs ..because i have difficult to explaine about eletrican in the dzong to our clients … i suspect that all our Bhutanses we didnt know the value of electricity these could be the accidemnt la….






    don’t talk and write to much better pray to guru rinpoche from pure and clear heart for our country being peace forever_/\_

  30. hiroyuki hisada

    Is filled with great sadness.
    I say respectfully condolence.

  31. This news is heart breaking ! Such an ancient and blessed monument will never be able to be restored in such depth. This monument has held intact centuries of blessings that have been imbued through the prayers of the most powerful and magnetic founder of the ‘Land of Thunder Dragon”, the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself. Let us all join hands and make a collective prayer to remember this unfathomable master who seems to remind us of the most crucial teachings of Buddhism – impermanence. If such great blessed monuments come to an end what is the use of being so engrossed in materialism? Really we need to persevere to practice the essential teachings and live in peace and harmony!
    Condolences and prayers from Khandro Thrinlay Chodon and her Khachodling Team in Australia

  32. Rosalía Coll

    So sad… is necessary an effective political of fire prevention. Traditional bhutanese architecture is one of the most beautiful and interesting in the world. This destructive episode will repeat if it’s not done this prevention. All my support to bhutanese people,

  33. hA-nA

    Oh! sad news!

  34. Janusz Szwedo

    We are so sorry learning about the horrible fire which destroyed Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, a gateway to eastern Bhutan, built in 1638 by the nation’s founder, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. We share the opinion of H. E. Mr. Dasho Karma Ura, president of the Center for Bhutan Studies who said that “It’s not just a Bhutanese architectural loss but a loss for the whole Himalayan region”. We would add to it that it is also a painful loss for all those who had a chance to experience the hospitality and cordiality of the noble Bhutanese people and to witness their attachment to the historic monuments. In April 2012 we visited the wonderful “Kingdom in Heaven” and had a possibility to admire the Dzong twice: in all its morning glory and before the sunset while coming back from Pubjika Valley. We share sadness and sorrow of all the Bhutanese and express our solidarity and compassion in these difficult days of tragedy. God save all the dongs of Bhutan, jewels of architecture and pearls of the Himalayan art and and help rebuilding the destroyed Wangdue Phodrang Dzong.
    With all our heartfelt wishes:
    /-/ Janusz SZWEDO, Ambassador of Poland to Kuwait and Bahrain;
    /-/ Malgorzata SZWEDO, Polish Ambassador’s spouse;
    /-/ Joanna WRONECKA, Ambassador of the European Union to Jordan.
    Kuwait, 4 July, 2012.

  35. Sonam

    Agree with Singye..
    Modern materials is not the solution to fire disaster. And every one seems to have this misconception. How unconfirmed !! The fact is traditional method of building is best !! Use of more timber and mud is best because it is environmental friendly, wood is renewable resource…sasdly we are not making use of forests..it is not wise to keep forest idle, we have to use and plant. This wood and mud use maintains moderate temperature. It’s the best !!
    Fire hazards can be avoided by taking precautionary measures, no other way. They can make use of solar energy for all purposes, replacing the electricity.
    We should think and research before we do anything !

  36. bear

    dear all,

    how about making contribution to the reconstruction of dzong, some of the department issue the letter telling that should deduct from the salary, was it compulsory? some of the ADM calling its employ in phone for deduction of money not less than NU 500/-

  37. Lee Jia Yi

    How this incident can happen? Btw,is this a monastery or what?

  38. Wolfgang

    I feel very sad about the terrible disaster happen at the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong which I visited in 1996 and 2000. I strongly hope that the complex can be rebuilt and hope the best for the Bhutanese People. Wolfgang from Bangkok

  39. tshangay

    indeed it is a great loss to the people of bhutan and to the country. we hope and pray that such incident never happen again in the near future. we hope and pray to see the dzong come up soon. the old dzongs that have been built centuries back were lagging in Fire Fighting system.

    i urge that proper fire fighting equipment be provided in every dzongs so that in near future such incident may be prevented. and we can also train the monks to use the portable fire equipment so that they are equipped/aware of any minor incident.

    i hope to see wangdiphodrang dzong built on the same location where Lham Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal has prophesized back in 16th century.

    Good luck.

  40. Marie Lloyd

    Your loss is great, people of Bhutan, but you have a wonderful honest monarch and your country is committed to a Buddhist path. Here in Canada, our government is so flawed I call our Prime Minister the Crime Minister. Our tar sands project is huge and is causing WORLD WIDE disasters to our planet’s environment. Please forgive us. A great Canadian scientist, David Suzuki, praises your attitude constantly. You and he give me hope. Someday we may imitate Bhutan. Meanwhile our huge stone Parliament buildings are fine, but the politicians inside them? The government in power is very undesirable!

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