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A state of helplessness: separated from family and community by the Nepal Earthquake

World Vision
28 April 2015 by Matt Darvas
A state of helplessness: separated from family and community by the Nepal Earthquake

Kumar was travelling away from his village in Nepal, when the deadly earthquake struck. Now he is separated from his village and family, as the country struggles to recover.

Kumar had come to Gorkha a day prior to the earthquake, where he was planning to continue to Pokhara for animal health training he had sought out himself to receive.

It typically takes Kumar two days to reach Gorkha Municipality. He first walks three hours from his village before continuing in local vehicles. Prior to vehicle access it used to take villagers from Kumar’s town seven days. If he tried to return to his village now, based the information on the surrounding landslides, he would make it only 20 kms from Gorkha Municipality by road and would then need to walk for at least a further 2-3 days.

This gives an idea of the situation here in Gorkha District as to how incredibly remote some of these villages are and how difficult it will be to get much needed aid to them in time.

Kumar spoke to village leaders at 10 pm the night of the earthquake. That was the last time he spoke to them.

Yesterday there was an unsuccessful attempt to land a Nepali military helicopter. When Kumar spoke to the village leaders that evening, Kumar learnt that of the 176 households, between 70-75% of dwellings have been completely destroyed. Of the approx. 750 villagers, at that time it was though 60-80 people are trapped under collapsed homes, the majority of which are children and the elderly who were at home because they were not out working in the fields. A further 20 were missing in the local community forest.

When he spoke to them they confirmed the deaths of two elderly men who died when rocks fell on them from the hills above but they believe many more children and elderly will be dead, buried under the debris of their homes.

Kumar’s own family – comprised of his 37-year-old wife, 12-year-old daughter, 3 sons age 16, 10 and 8 years were inside the house eating their lunch at the time of the quake. As the walls started to shake, they quickly ran from the house which collapsed immediately behind them.

When he first spoke to his wife by mobile at 1:30PM she was clearly terrified, asking her husband to come and ‘rescue’ them. As he spoke to his wife throughout the evening, the children were hungry and demanding food. The villagers rely on food stored in their houses (rice, maize, millet) but with houses collapsed they cannot access and are searching for a local fruit found in the forest.

Right now the electricity that normally supplies the village from a 14.4 KW micro-hydro system (which Kumar presides over the operation of for his village), is shut off, likely destroyed, with no back-up power system. Two houses in the town had 10W and 20W solar systems but they have run dead. There was a 40W system on the school but he is unsure if the school is still standing or destroyed.

There was a French national living there and volunteering in the community, ‘Dr Danielle’, who is said, was providing first aid care to villagers after the earthquake.

Describing the position of his village on the side of a mountain using his hand, Kumar made a slope of approximately 45 degrees, just showing how steep and precarious its location is. When he made rudimentary sketch of his village, he drew a steep cone-shaped mountain with the village fanned out just beneath the pinnacle. Beneath the village lies a steep cliff.

As he sits across the table, in the relative safety of Gorkha Municpalitly, saying, “I am incredibly sad about this situation and want to rescue not just my family but all of my friends in the village but I don’t know what to do or how to reach them. There have been two unsuccessful attempts to rescue them by helicopter and I don’t know when they will reach them. I feel a great responsibility as the only leader from the village to have made it out safely. It’s been 2 days since I have spoken to them and I haven’t heard anything since.”

You can donate to our Nepal Earthquake Appeal at our website or call 13 32 40.

Matt Darvas

Matt Darvas lives in Nepal with his wife Brittany who is also a development worker. Matt shares stories from their life in Nepal on his blog and you can follow him on Twitter here.

 

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