I have just returned from Nepal. It’s a country I have visited many times before. I first travelled there in my early twenties, an experience that shaped my future. The people I met touched my heart, they were kind, proud, hard working people. After that trip I decided I wanted to work in international development and joined Practical Action’s fundraising team. I have since returned to Nepal four further times. My last trip was in March where I visited communities in Gorkha, which was at the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake to see how Practical Action was helping families to “build back better”.
I had tried to prepare myself beforehand for what I might see but the enormity of the devastation was overwhelming. The country I loved so much had been brought to it’s knees.
The Gorkha area I visited was severely affected and suffered 449 fatalities (310 adults and 139 children) and a further 20 people were never found including 2 children. Villages were completely flattened, communities ripped apart. A year on families were still living in temporary shelters, terrified for the future.
I listened to families stories of the day the earthquake hit, of where they were, of their houses collapsing around them, of injuries and their terror. Grown men wept as they recalled what their families had been through. Because of their remote, rural location emergency aid couldn’t reach them for days. They had no food, too terrified to return to their homes which were now just piles of rubble. For a further three months they experienced relentless aftershocks.
Many of the adults I spoke to found it difficult to think about the future. There was real sense of hopelessness. But the children were different. My son had written a letter for me to give to the children when I visited, he had raised nearly £50 for Practical Action’s Nepal appeal after the earthquake by selling some of his toys and I had took some papers, pens and paper aeroplanes from him as gifts.
The local children had drawn me some pictures with those pens and paper. The pictures were beautiful; vibrant, colourful and full of hope. They’d drawn strong, robust houses, latrines and water taps; everything they’d lost in the earthquake.
I have since written to our supporters about these stories. There is still such great need in Nepal; 900,000 people lost their homes. Practical Action has started helping families to ‘build back better’; training local masons to build earthquake resistant houses, repairing broken water points to villages, building emergency earthquake shelters, helping families to improve their livelihoods, through better agricultural techniques and improving access to markets so they can earn money. These are all important elements to help families get back on their feet again.
I am immensely proud to work for Practical Action, for the collaborative work we do with communities, for our hands up approach. The people in Nepal are very proud but they need our help now more than ever, they need a starting point. By supporting our Nepal ‘build back better’ appeal you can help us do just that. Thank you, your support will make such a difference.
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2015 has been such a challenging year for Nepal. We were already in the middle of political turmoil when it started. April and May were the hardest months; we faced two massive earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks. Many of us lost our families, friends, loved ones and parts of our heritage that were indispensable parts of our lives.
We came to know how ruthless nature could be and how fearful and helpless life can get. I remember the second night, after the April 25 earthquake, when my family was sleeping in an open space near our house under a makeshift tent due to frequent strong aftershocks. It rained that night and my mother was struggling to keep us warm but somehow some raindrops would get into our tent and it was cold – very cold. I felt so helpless at that moment, I felt sad not just for myself but for all the people who were outside and who probably didn’t even have a plastic sheet to keep the rain off. I thought about little children and people who don’t even have another change of clothes or a blanket to cover up. The cold was too much to bear, I got up from the tent and went to my home and slept on the ground floor. But unlike me, many people didn’t even have a home to go back to.
Almost eight months past, they still don’t have a house to sleep properly. People whose houses were destroyed are still living in the temporary shelters, made up of tins and galvanised iron sheets. Things, instead of improving, are only getting worse for them!
Winter this year is remarkably cold. Temperatures are at a record low. The most popular conversation starter these days is – oh this year’s winter is too cold, isn’t it? And cold it is. On the top of everything, Nepal is facing an economic blockade (I will not get into political details of that) due to which there is shortage of every possible thing. There is no fuel to run the vehicles, to cook food, to keep ourselves warm – just imagine no fuel, no cooking gas and not even electricity. we are living the energy crisis nightmare! Price of everyday items have sky rocketed.
How does a poor person living in a temporary shelter survive in such a situation? How do they cope with the cold in their shelters? How do they keep their children warm?
Arjun Sunar of Asrang Village Development Committee (VDC), Gorkha District shares about his family’s experience of living in a temporary shelter, “We were adjusting in the temporary shelter but it is getting colder by the day. It gets so cold that dew drops start dripping from 11 pm making it difficult for the whole family to sleep.” Practical Action along with its partner organisation had supported Arjun to construct a temporary shelter.
Apart from cold, there are also other problems such as lack of adequate space and the difficulty of maintaining privacy. Due to lack of enough rooms, some of the families are using the kitchen and bedrooms of their partially damaged houses on the verge of collapse. This is keeping them at great risk with aftershocks still returning.
To ease the problem of cold, Arjun has tried to insulate his shelter with cardboard. “There is a scarcity of insulating materials in the market, so I have used cardboard. There is some control in the dropping of dew from roof in night time after that. But cold air passes inside from different corners which is still a problem for my family members. We have all started getting sick from the cold,” says Arjun.
Arjun have only heard that the government is going to provide some resources to build a house. And he wants to make it earthquake resilient. “I don’t think the amount which will be provided by the government will be enough for a good construction. And I don’t know when the relief will be provided, winter is becoming increasingly hard for us.”
Arjun is only a representative, there are many families struggling to survive cold, along with the pain of losing their loved ones and homes. The situation is even more challenging for families with small children, lactating mothers and senior citizens. Most of the health posts’ records show that there is a huge increase in the number of people compared to previous year visiting these posts this year due to cold related diseases. There are headlines in newspapers of earthquake victims losing their lives due to cold. This loss cannot be blamed to the nature alone; deaths due to cold could have been prevented.
Seems like the challenges for Nepal is not ending anytime soon; even after the year ends. With the winter getting more severe by the day, it is high time that priority be given to reach out to these people. Government as well as non-government organisations should prioritise making winter easier for the people – who must be feeling cold and helpless out there.
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The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25 and the major aftershock of 7.3 on May 12 did a lot of harm in Nepal. The loss of lives, homes and heritages; and the constant fear of losing what is left; has put the whole nation in despair. People are in the state of trauma, with many in serious state of fear and stress. The busy streets of Kathmandu are deserted, small and large businesses all closed down. And it is already almost a month of the first quake.
The whole disaster has caused a serious damage to the already struggling economy of the country. And the ones who are hit the worst are (always) the most marginalised; the poorest of the poor people. The people who earn their living on a daily wage basis, the ones who already had very little, now are left with nothing.
The (informal) waste workers in Kathmandu valley are among the most marginalised people. They lived in the most vulnerable parts of the city; in the river banks, renting the oldest of the houses. Thus, they have suffered more loss than the rest of the population. Most of the waste workers from the neighbouring country India, have gone back to their own country. The Nepali waste pickers are mostly from the districts like Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha and Kavre which has been hit more badly than Kathmandu, leaving them no option to go back to their hometowns.
“My house at Kavre is totally damaged by the earthquake and so is my rented room here in Kathmandu”, says Thuli Maya Tamang (35), a waste segregator who has been living in a makeshift tent made of tarpaulin.
More than hundred other waste workers like Thuli Maya who lived around Teku area of Kathmandu are now living under tarpaulins in the premises of Waste Transfer Station at Teku, Kathmandu. They are living just by the side of heaps of waste; with no option to move to a better open space. They do not have access to better open spaces, as the people from other (better-off) communities are unwilling to share the space with them.
As most of the waste workers worked in daily wage basis or were dependent on the waste they collected every day, their earning has suffered a lot due to this disaster. They were not able to work for many days due fear and now they cannot work even if they want to because the ‘Kabaads’ (Scrap house) where they used to work are closed.
“It is difficult to keep the family fed, as we cannot find any work. And I am so scared that I don’t think that I can work for few more days,” says Thuli Maya.
They have not received any aid or support from any organisation apart from the support of tarpaulins from PRISM project staff on a personal basis. “We have heard that the earthquake victims are getting relief materials but we haven’t received any yet,” says Thuli Maya.
Gautam Lama (50) is worried about finding a proper space to live after the aftershock gets reduced. “My house at Kavre is totally damaged. The rented room here has many cracks and is not in a liveable condition. I don’t know how I will be able to find a new place to live, as people were already sceptic about renting rooms to us poor people even before the earthquake,” Gautam shares his woes. Finding a space in Kathmandu will definitely be a challenge to these people as a huge number of houses are damaged and renting spaces are already difficult to find.
Gautam’s daughter Samjhana’s (25) rented rooms at Balkhu, Kathmandu crumbled down into pieces due to the first quake. She feels lucky just to get outside of it in time with her 11 month old baby. “I could not take out anything from the house. Don’t even have clothes for the baby,” says Samjhana who used to be a waste segregator and is currently living with her parents at the transfer station at Teku.
Maya Tamang, who works at the co-operatives run by the waste workers, shared that children are suffering a lot due to living outdoors. “Children have started to get sick with cough and cold, as it gets cold in the night time. Rain creates more difficulty, so does mosquitoes, other insects and also snakes,” says Maya.
Maya opines that the only thing that has helped them survive during the past few weeks is the ‘Sanyuta Safai Jagaran’ co-operative which started operation with the support of the PRISM project and is being run by the efforts of the waste workers themselves. “Thankfully, we had been saving regularly in the co-operative. Most of the waste workers are using the saved amount to run their lives in this time of crisis. We would have been left hungry, if not for the co-operative,” Maya adds. “But it is still difficult for most of the families. I have no idea how we all will be able to find a proper shelter and for how long will we have to live under the open sky.”
Disasters like earthquake harm everyone; but it certainly affects the poor more severely.
As the world starts to forget about this disaster in Nepal and its coverage slowly starts to fade from the world media, there are thousands of people like Thuli Maya, Gautam and Samjhana who still need help and assistance to build back their lives.
Following the earthquake on 25th April, Practical Action’s Nepal team has been working hard to help some of the devastated communities in Gorkha and Dhading.
- Water treatment (to reduce deaths by disease, especially in infants)
- Emergency shelters (for homes, and public facilities e.g. toilets)
- Energy generation (lighting and heating, including for medical centres)
- Solar communication technology (for mobile phone charging)
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I have witnessed some of the most notorious disasters and insurgencies in the recent times. The Operation Blue Star conducted in Golden Temple in Amritsar, India in 1984 was the first one when I got stranded for a week in Kashmir and luckily got a special train to leave Jammu for Delhi. For the first time in my life, I had seen violence and curfew.
The same year I witnessed the Bhopal gas tragedy, while I was a second year engineering student in the same town. I was lucky to get unaffected, but have seen the climax of people being affected after methyl isocyanate leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant. I volunteered in the local hospital for a couple of days, and saw how people were dying and how mass cremation was being held without being able to consider their religious faith. Just a month earlier, I had witnessed brutal attack on Sikh communities following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
However, the big earthquake which rocked central part of Nepal on 25 April 2015 is hard to explain. I was with my wife and daughter at home. Just before noon, the house started shaking brutally. My wife screamed and tried to run outside but I stopped and without any thinking, we all entered an adjacent room. I advised to calm down and asked to duck, cover and hold down near a big wooden cupboard thinking that it will be strong enough to protect us. Unfortunately the cupboard fell above us ramming my wife’s hand and daughter’s leg, but by chance my back came in between and prevented major injuries to them.
We expected that it will stop in a while. But the tremor which was swinging from west to east occasionally started rotating and continued for two minutes. Never in my life have the two minutes been so long. My wife was literally crying thinking that we all will die. My daughter tried to console her saying it will be okay, we will be fine. I thought I was quite strong and kept telling to calm down. Once the tremor stopped, we rushed outside in an open ground where our neighbours were already there. We started looking around. The boundary wall of one of our neighbors had collapsed, while another neighbour’s house had multiple cracks. We stayed there for an hour or so. The aftershock kept coming in every 5 to 10 minutes. We tried to call our close relatives. Fortunately the phone was working for post-paid mobile numbers and we could get ‘survived’ news from some of our close relatives.
My parents were in the US but my wife’s parents were in Kathmandu living nearby us. Being worried about them, we closed the main door hurriedly and walked to their house. Surprisingly very few houses were damaged nearby, but we started getting stark images of our heritages like Dharahara and Durbar Square ruined to rubble through Twitter. We came to know that the quake’s magnitude was 7.9 Richter scale. My in-laws were also safe and had assembled in an open area together with their neighbours. We joined them and started taking stock of other relatives. I was speechless when one of my cousins told me that his brother died while he had gone to attend a meeting in a commercial complex near Kalanki in Kathmandu. My legs shivered and just could not hold off. My cousin who died was very close to me. We grew together in a joint family and lived happily for many years since my childhood until I got married. I just cannot explain the condition of his body when recovered from the complex. I had to helplessly witness his funeral and his family members. That was one of the most shocking pains in my life.
Immediately after the weekend, we tried to behave normally by coming to the office and discussing with the colleagues on how we, the fortunate ones to survive, should help the victims, who lost their families and houses. Although Practical Action is not a relief organisation, we decided to work on relief and response. Our Head Office immediately decided to give us GBP 100,000 to initiate necessary response and recovery works. Our staffs who were all fortunate to survive together with their family members decided to contribute at least one week’s salary to the earthquake victims. That too was a big money amounting Rs 17 Lakh, equivalent to 11,000 GBP. Practical Action is not enlisted as a relief organisation and not a member of Disaster and Relief Committee (DEC) and Rapid Relief Forum (RRF). So, we have no access to relief fund though DFID has pledged GBP 22.8 million in assistance to respond to the quake victims. We have been successful to mobilise another GBP 100,000 from our partner, Christian Aid. Likewise, our supports and staff from other country and regional offices have also contributed.
We have limited money but the affected area and population is enormous. It was a very difficult decision to agree on our working area. We all felt that we should work with those communities who know us and where the organisation has a long presence. Therefore, we decided to focus ourselves in Gorkha and Dhading districts. The epicentre of the earthquake was in Gorkha, while Dhading is the adjacent district to the east, and both are considered as most affected districts. We coordinated with District Emergency Operation Centre (DEOC) and District Disaster Response Committee (DDRC) in both the districts, who assigned Ashrang, Borlang and Sorpani Village Development Committees (VDCs) of Gorkha and Jogimara, Jyamrung and Salyantar VDCs of Dhading district. We will expand beyond these VDCs once we have more resources and capacity. Beyond relief, we plan to engage in these areas for post recovery works to make sure that they have decent facilities and sustainable livelihood to cope with the adverse situations. The first relief package has already reached Gorkha while we are preparing to dispatch over 6000 tarpaulins, mattresses, water tanks, polythene pipes and food package within a week.
We have a long term plan for post recovery. We are planning to concentrate on (i) shelter, (ii) WASH (water connection and latrine facilities) and (iii) energy (lighting and mobile charging). In medium term, we are exploring to support for earthquake resilient affordable shelters since over 90% houses are unusable. People use stone masonry with mud mortar in villages. Such structures are vulnerable when they face earthquake more than 6 Richter scale. Therefore, the challenge for us is to offer affordable resilient house building technologies as a medium term plan for recovery. We are collecting the models from our earlier experiences from Sri Lanka (Post Tsunami) and Peru. We are also exploring with other organisations having expertise in developing community shelters.
I would like to emphasise that Practical Action will not leave any stone unturned to ensure the most needy have access to simpler technology with regard to shelter, water supply, sanitation and energy. I thank Practical Action Nepal staffs who have generously contributed over Rs 16 Lakh to complement our support to the people in need. I would also encourage our associates to join and contribute in whatever capacity you can. We will coordinate with the local authorities to make sure that we complement each other. We wish that all of our trauma of losses will soon subside and make us more resilient in the days to come.No Comments » | Add your comment
Thousands of people gathered across Nepal in the last day of a 13-day mourning period for the victims of the deadly earthquake. The death toll from the magnitude-7.8 quake has climbed to 8,413.
This is a guest blog by Sunil Sharma, a photojournalist with Xinhua News Agency in Nepal, who shares the story of a mourning family in Pangtang, a village in Sindhupalchok District in the Bagmati Zone of central Nepal.
“Oh God, why did you ruin my family?” said Siddha Bahadur Gurung, who was taking part in mourning rituals of his mother and mother-in-law.
Siddha was totally helpless as his house collapsed. Many villagers in his district were left homeless due to the catastrophic earthquake on 25 April.
“My mother and mother-in-law died in front of me; I could not do anything,” he said.
Siddha lived with his wife, two children, sister and mother, while his mother-in-law lived in another house nearby. They were all were together, chatting during lunch time, when the quake hit and turned his house to rubble.
“My mother fell down near this wall”, he said, showing me the spot on the rubble near a window, “and here my mother-in-law was near the ladder trying to hold my children but she couldn’t.
“I was unconscious until my uncle pulled me out from the rubble after an hour. When I gained consciousness, I started to look for my family. We started to search for them together with my uncle.”
Siddha’s uncle, Hari was busy in his field when the earthquake struck.
“Suddenly, I heard a bursting sound and felt the ground shaking,” he said. “Everything was shaking, even the hills. I ran towards my house and saw all the three houses along with Siddha’s lying flat on the ground. I called for help and pulled the family members from the rubble, Unfortunately, I couldn’t save Siddha’s mother and mother-in-law.”
Siddha’s sister Hiradevi and wife Sangita are both injured. His children were injured too, more so psychologically. He is homeless now and staying in a temporary shelter provided by his neighbours. His animals (goat, chicken and ducks) are all buried under the rubble.
Siddha’s elder sister Mundrika has also lost her home and is mourning the death of her husband.
His injured wife is being treated in a hospital in Kathmandu, but he has to stay with his remaining family, because his father is also too old to look after them.
Many other families lost their sons and fathers, mothers and daughters in the remote village of Pangtang of Sindhupalchowk district in this disastrous earthquake, where support from the government has not yet reached with enough relief operations.
Such is the destiny of a poor village of Nepal.No Comments » | Add your comment
In the aftermath of Nepal’s mega earthquake and amidst incessant aftershocks, the Practical Action team here in Nepal are working hard to offer whatever in personal and professional capacities they can. All of us – as many as 82 professionals have all been affected in some way by the disaster’s destruction and have been doing all we can in such unprecedented nearly worst case scenario.
At this time everybody’s goal is same but we are doing different things in different settings. After all, in a situation where whole state is screaming for rescue and relief, we are as if indifferent by virtue of our ability to bounce back from sorrows and trauma. We are working hard to reach the needy victims, form alliances with other organisations, sympathise and empathise with people’s feelings and contribute physically, mentally and financially.
Our leadership so much engrossed in the emergency situation here, reaching out to people in the fullest capacity, and reminding me of my days in a human rights organisation when human rights violations and ethnic violence were rampant and urgent response was a high priority. To my surprise when everyone around me is so generous how can I seat just ideal? My seniors were coordinating resources and facilitating various channels to reach out to community. Our colleagues Buddhi Kumal is deployed in the forefront. My colleagues including Swarnima, Prabin G, Sachin and Milan were around ground zero zone for offering relief and rescue. Our DRR team is working at full throttle at ground level whilst all of us are being involved in various works that complement the undertakings of our experts.
It is said that giving is always satisfying but when you have limited things to offer, generosity counts highly. The organisation itself has been urging all its teammates, donors and partners to express solidarity and to contribute in whatever capacity, so that needy people get sigh of relief and respite. Further to this, there are various stories of contribution in personal and professional capacities by our colleagues, domestic and universal coordination and appeals from relevant desk is all time high. This first-hand experience of generosity not only inspires but is catalytic in making the team more motivated to offer support and help. To be honest I was not as generous as I am right now.
When leaders who better understand the organisation’s capacity and its strategic relevance are working 24/7, there is no need of other motivation and incentive. The sense of encouragement, the smell of generosity and cooperation is everywhere regardless of aims and themes. Standing tall as a rescue and relief providing entity needs much resource and expertise and our priority areas of reconstruction, rebuilding and resilience are waiting for more resources to pour in. However, we may be in short supply of resources but we are not in short supply of vision, value and vigour. The generosity with our sleeves rolled up for the relief work has made us a frontline organisation that focuses on immediate technological needs in regard to shelter, water supply and energy.
I urge you all to be a part of our relief work. Please show your generosity by supporting our work.No Comments » | Add your comment
I recently visited one of the severely earthquake affected districts – Gorkha which is also one of the project areas of Practical Action. When I was approaching Gorkha, I could easily see the effect – the hills were covered with orange or blue patches – tarpaulin which people are using as temporary shelter. The situation is panicking as aftershocks are still active. I could see fear in the peoples’ face when they feel the aftershock, escaping out of their vulnerable habitat.
I managed to visit a nearby village (Paslang) in the municipality which is completely destroyed; there were 28 houses in the area and now only 4 are standing. The quake claimed two lives – a nine-month-pregnant woman and a month-old child. People are in dire need of shelter. They are managing somehow for food but for shelter they are waiting for the relief materials to reach their area.
I was in the district headquarters and from the scene one could easily imagine what it could look like in the remote villages in terms of relief and rescue. The temporary shelter in the district headquarters is crowded. There is no provision of toilets as well as people are not concerned about maintaining the hygiene practices – hopefully they have more important things to think about. When I enquired to some of the active social workers who were getting updates from the villages – they said that none of the temporary shelters has toilet facilities.
One could see lots of volunteers and development workers rushing in. It gives a feeling that they are competing with each other to get hold of the villages into their accounts but reaching to the sufferers is not at the expected level. It seems proper coordination among development worker is lacking which is a must – for Better Response.
Practical Action is conducting relief activities in six Village Development Committees (VDCs), three each in Gorkha and Dhading districts. In the first phase, the relief activities are particularly focused on temporary shelter, water and sanitation including toilets, nutritional diets, energy for lighting and mobile phone charging. In the second phase, after 3 to 6 months, the initiatives will be focused on rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods with building back better activities.1 Comment » | Add your comment
I still can’t imagine it was an earthquake. The futsal match between Practical Action and Handicap International was running at full throttle and 1-1 was the result. My three and half years old daughter was cheering for Practical Action together with my colleague Sachin’s daughter. Suddenly people started running away from the futsal ground. I thought a fight had ensued. But then I could hear sound of something collapsing. There was a huge roar. The spectators were running for safety. It was an earthquake. And it was big. Very big!
In spite of the hullabaloo, I was aware of the two little girls I had to take care of. Both the innocent girls had no idea what was happening. I took hold of both and ducked for cover. They were terrified to the bones by the stampede. Sachin ran to us frantically from the futsal ground and helped me take both the girls to a safe place.
All assembled were intimidated and trying to call their close relatives but to no avail. The situation was scary. The aftershocks were strong enough to send chills down my spine. My feelings were similar to that of my colleague Prabin’s account.
Pillion-riding back to my place, I could see the devastation though in bits and pieces. The terrorised Kathmanduites were out on the streets. Many walls on the way had collapsed down and many houses had visible cracks.
The following days were horrific – living in tents throughout the day and night with rumours of bigger earthquake to hit the city floating around causing more fear and panic.
After putting up with hundreds of aftershocks and sleepless nights I finally joined office on 28 April. However, I had not well recovered to resume my daily routine. I would once in a while get call from my wife and daughter requesting to get home early.
On my second day to office I made up my mind to visit the demolished sites. As I entered the New Road Gate, the once vibrant street bustling with crowd, was like a street of an abandoned city. Few people passing through the road section were hurrying towards their destinations in order to avoid the falling of buildings upon them.
As I passed through the always crowded street, I rushed through. The buildings seemed tall demons ready to devour me. Reaching the Joshi Complex, my after-office hangout with my friends for stress-buster chats over cups of tea, I was dumbfounded by the silence of the place. None of the shops were open even after four days of the horrific tremor.
When I moved to Basantapur, there was a barricade with “No Entry” sign. So I took a detour via Jhochhen, the Freak Street. As I reached the Basantapur Dabali, my weekend jaunt, I could not stop myself. There was a lump in my throat and I tried hard to stop the tears trickling down. The nine storey palace was nowhere to be seen. Sitting on the Dabali in its front, I would often gaze at the beauty and grandeur of the place. It was all gone within a matter of minutes.
Returning via Dharhara, the pride of Kathmandu built by Nepal’s first Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa devastated in 1934 AD earthquake, I could just see a short stump.
Along with durbar squares in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur – all World Heritage Sites, Dharhara, Kal Mochan and many significant monuments were reduced to mounds of earth. The 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that shook not only the country but also the confidence of Nepalis, has claimed lives of 6,250 and injured 14,357 as of 1 May according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Around eight million people have been affected with 143,673 houses damaged and another 160,786 destroyed. Gorkha, Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dhading, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Kavrepalanchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, and Sindhuli districts have been badly hit by the earthquake.
Can an earthquake be so ruthless? I still can’t imagine it was an earthquake. It was an Armageddon. But our never dying spirit hasn’t subsided. We will soon bounce back.
Journalist Ujjwal Acharya tweeted:
So many people tirelessly & voluntarily providing time & resources to help others after #NepalQuake. Humanism is alive! Salute to them all!
— Ujjwal Acharya (@UjjwalAcharya) April 30, 2015
For the relief work, the government has identified shelter, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), health and food as the major priorities. Practical Action has rushed to its work areas in Gorkha and Dhading, two of the most affected districts.
Practical Action South Asia Regional Director Achyut Luitel tweeted:
— Achyut Luitel (@achyutluitel) April 29, 2015
Please join hands with us to help the earthquake victims.6 Comments » | Add your comment
More than 4,000 people have died in the huge earthquake that hit Nepal at the weekend, and nearly 8,000 have been injured. Millions more have had their lives turned upside down.
Mary Willcox is a Principal Energy Consultant at Practical Action Consulting. She was in Kathmandu when it happened and recounts her experience. Like most Practical Action staff, she is not a qualified, professional aid worker and so returned to the UK this week.
I had stayed on after going out to Nepal to do a workshop on energy access in order to take a couple of weeks holiday, and was due to fly out on Saturday afternoon. I was in Thamel (the backpacker/shopping part of Kathmandu) at midday when the earthquake struck.
As if the ground had turned to liquid
Have you have ever been on a cable bridge – where as someone else treads on it, it shakes? It was as if the whole world was like that – as if the ground had turned to liquid.
I was pretty scared. I was in a narrow street, I didn’t have a map and I didn’t know exactly where I was. People were crouching in doorways to take cover and as soon as the quake was over we all ran to the nearest open space.
It was a pretty frightening few minutes, and I immediately decided that I could do without any more pashminas or other gifts to take back with me, and headed straight back, out of Thamel’s narrow streets, to the hotel I’d been staying in on Durbar Marg.
On the way back to the hotel I saw a few walls and some electricity poles fallen into the road, and a couple of people with minor injuries, but nothing which gave me any idea of the real scale of destruction.
At the hotel, I found the rest of my party and other guests gathered in the parking area in front of the hotel, where we stayed for the next 5-6 hours.
Very little information
Through the afternoon there were aftershocks and news trickled in of some of the earthquake’s effects (like the collapse of Bhimsen Tower), but still nothing which really gave a picture of what had happened. We didn’t know where the epicentre was. There was very little information. We heard that the death toll was estimated to be hundreds at the end of the day so at that point in time the scale of the earthquake wasn’t apparent. There was no internet access either. Everyone sent texts to family to let them know they were ok.
Aftershocks in the night
By 6pm, clearance came through from the government for people to go back into buildings. That allowed me to retrieve my luggage and passport from my room but the airport had been closed, so I stayed at the hotel overnight. The hotel (a substantial modern building) had suffered some damage but nothing catastrophic, though most of us chose to sleep outside around the pool. I don’t think I’d have got much sleep if I’d stayed in my room.
There were various aftershocks in the night and I was woken by a particularly big shock at around 5am.
The airport was chaotic
The next morning, I took a taxi to the airport which, by 7am, was already chaotic. The roads between the hotel and the airport were open and traffic had continued to flow throughout. Though there were a lot of people wandering around who had obviously slept on the roadside and other open areas, again there was no sign of wholesale destruction.
After 3 hours queueing I managed to get into the security area and from there into the check-in hall. By about 1pm I was checked onto a plane scheduled to leave for Delhi at 4pm, but then there was another significant aftershock, and though a few more flights left that afternoon, at about 7pm it was announced that my flight had been cancelled. By then aid had started coming in – mainly by the Indian Air Force, but I think there was also some from China.
I decided to stay in the airport to be at the front of the queue for check in the next morning – but so did lots of other people. By this point the airport was pretty squalid – food and water had pretty much run out and the loos weren’t working (I think the system had been damaged in the earthquake). By 10am I’d checked in, and by 2pm I was on a flight to Delhi, where I managed to get my original flight booking back to the UK transferred to that night’s flight, and I got back to Heathrow on Tuesday morning.
Living in fear
All in all, I suffered a few minutes of fear and a couple of days of inconvenience. That’s nothing to what’s facing people in Nepal now who have lost relatives, had homes and businesses destroyed, and are living in fear of another major earthquake. It’s really brought home to me that the superficial visible damage is just the tip of the iceberg relative to the real long-term damage to the infrastructure of people’s lives. Despite this, all the Nepali’s I encountered were calm and courteous and anxious about the well-being of visitors, from the hotel staff who managed to serve all the hotel guests a hot meal on the evening of the earthquake, to the airport staff who were handling many times the usual number of passengers, combined with backlogs from cancelled flights, and conflicts between getting people out and aid in – A skeleton staff working 16 hour shifts was struggling to deal with this and they are the heroes for me in this story.
Help people rebuild their lives
I had a tiny glimpse of a horrible event, and have really no better picture of what has happened, and is likely to happen, than anyone else who has been following events on the media. It seems likely that it’s going to get worse before it gets better – and that recovery is going to be a long haul not a quick fix. The first phase is obviously going to be focused on getting immediate help to people in the worst-hit areas, and it’ll be after that that we may be able to help people rebuild their lives. Hopefully, as the picture becomes clearer, our colleagues in Nepal may be able to give us ideas on how we can best help.
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