Tue, 13 Apr, 2021

Looking Back at Our Efforts in Helping the Earthquake Victims

By Binam Subedi

prayfornepal"You have months, even years, but nothing changes, a speck if you don't go anywhere or do anything new. Yet time can hit you with a day or an hour, or even a week when so much happens; it's almost like you are born all over again into some brand-new person with different perception."

Yes, it is right; we are talking about the gut-wrenching calamity of nature- the Earthquake that took place almost a month ago on 25th April 2015 and took away thousands of lives in Nepal. The country which stands with pride in front of the entire world, embracing its diversity of culture and tradition as its peak (Mt. Everest) stand high glancing the nature's beauty, was bruised.

April 2015 Nepal Earthquake (also called Gorkha quake) killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 19,000 people. It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake.  The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least 19, making it the deadliest day in the mountain-hiking history. It triggered another avalanche in the Langtang valley, where 250 were dead. Hundreds and thousands of people were made homeless with a majority of villages flattened across many districts of country. Centuries-old buildings in the Kathmandu Valley, listed under UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaaktapur Durbar Square, Changu Narayan Temple and some others were destroyed. Also the heritage, Dhararaha, got devastated completely into dust leading to a death toll to 300+. Geophysicists and other experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a deadly earthquake, particularly because of its geology, urbanization and architecture.

I still remember the day I came to my hometown, just a day before the trembling quake. I had just finished mowing, trimming and edging the lawn and had sat down for a moment when the quake of scale 7.8 Richter hit. Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal within 15-20 minutes intervals, with one shock reaching a magnitude of 6.7 on 26 April at almost midday. As, a result, landslides hit many hilly areas where the red clay were all driven away by the heavy downpour.

It was such an awful situation and such a critical sight looking at the houses trembling to and fro, people flying the coop to escape from the earthquake as the houses were falling down. Moreover, people were wondering where to escape if the roads broke wide, more buildings fell down and landslides came down.

One after another, relief funds and labor donations started pouring in from countries from parts of the world. NGOs and INGOs also started giving their best. The government too was quite helpful but was quite slow at that moment to take decisions. However, the condition was not stable for next 15 days, which raised a sense of determination among the youth like us. We, the youth of Biratnagar, decided to do something for the casualties instead of escaping from the calamity, and the feeling of nationalism and patriotism inculcated strongly among us.

We started with an initiative of fund-raising "5 RUPEES CAMPAIGN". We had brainstormed much about the idea and we collected almost amount of 1.20 lakhs in 4 days. We visited many people, organizations, schools, etc. and received huge support from people because not only us, but they too were interested in our idea. As we had collected a huge amount, we decided to distribute this amount in the form of liquid cash, to avoid the corruption and we started our journey to the hills.

Meanwhile our friends, who were in valley, contacted us, and they decided to join our mission to help the victims and we made a team of almost 8 people. As a result, a huge amount got collected for the welfare of earthquake victims.

As commitment was in our mind, and not on piece of paper, we boarded from Biratnagar without wasting much of our time. Firstly, we went to Gorkha(Bungkot), where the condition was quite normal, since many other rescue team members from foreign countries were already there for assistance. However still, there were some scarcity and we distributed some relief materials among almost 100 families.

[caption id="attachment_6802" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Preparing for the distribution of relief materials Photo Courtesy: Asmita Bista Preparing for the distribution of relief materials
Photo Courtesy: Binam Subedi[/caption]

Next destination was Sindupalchowk (Nawalpur & Patigaun) where the condition of people was comparatively worse. They were starving out of hunger. Landslides had blocked many parts of the road to our destination, but still we reached safely and distributed relief materials worth almost 1.20 lakhs. We were saddened by the thought that those glistening look and aroma of diversity of the beautiful Nepali lands such as Sindhupalchowk will now hardly be seen.

The final destination Dolakha(Takanagi, Mudhe, Jilu, Charikot) was a tough job, since the place we thought to visit was almost ruined and the possibility of getting our materials snatched was high. The people were starving in such a way that they tried each and every trick just to survive. Here, we realized for the first time that Darwin’s theory "Struggle for Existence" was in fact true.

Seduction of safety is much more perilous than perception of risk. I would like to thank the Nepal Army and the APF for their immense motivation and suggestions to make our journey and stay successful and safe. We were accompanied by the German NGO and local NGO, but they left us mid way. However, we still continued. The condition of people was awful and people literally begged for food. Even the PM visited the people after the day of quake and gave them a sack of rice each and lentils, but those were on the verge of shortage. Those regions were occupied by Tamang, Damai and few Chettri people and the faces were grim due to no shelter and food. Moreover, the pollution of human waste and garbage was a challenging task for us to maintain, but we handled it with great ease. At that moment, I felt that humanity still exists in the world. The local people too, in spite of having no food and shelter worked for their benefit.  We felt pity for those people since there is no scope of bright future for their children if the government or some organizations do not help them rise. They have lost everything in the quake.

The only thing that helped to carry out this journey to help our Nepalese brothers and sisters was our commitment and support of our parents, neighbors, schools and all other foreign nation assistance along with NGOs and INGOs. Also, the help provided by the government was great, but not up to expectation.

We, as patriotic citizens, would like to appeal to the government for proper arrangement and assistance of those who’ve lost much in the quake. Still, the effects of the quake are on, but we fold our hands and pray for the good of people's health and wealth.

(Author Biography: Binam Subedi is a resident of Biratnagar.)