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A journalist’s diary

Thursday, May 28th, 2015
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From the Nepali Press

Makar Shrestha in Kantipur,23 May

Normally I write about other people but today I am writing about my difficult time.

The earthquake destroyed many houses including my houses in Bulungkhani and Singati that my father had built. My house had some minor cracks from the 25 April earthquake but the 12 May aftershock destroyed it. The landslide following the earthquake destroyed the land and it is impossible to farm now. Sixty-five families have relocated and are living under tarps.

Photo:Dipesh Khatri/Nyano Sansar

Photo: Dipesh Khatri

There were no casualties at my house. After the first earthquake my father, brother and sister-in-law were staying under a tent. Earlier in the year my mother just disappeared from our house and then we lost our home, we were now homeless.

As a journalist, I have to devote more time to work during such a crisis. Putting my personal pain aside, I got back into reporting about the aftermath of the disaster. On 1 May, I headed to Singati with tents for my family who had spent the last few nights under the open sky.

The constant rain and storm prevented us from setting up the tarps on the same day so we used them as ‘blankets’ instead. People lived in constant fear of the next potential earthquake in between aftershocks.

I came back to Kathmandu on 9 May after building shelters for my grandmother and father in Bulung and Singati respectively. My father was constantly stressed about our family as my mother had gone missing and my sister-in-law was pregnant. We rented her a room as it did not feel safe for her to stay out.

There was another strong aftershock on 12 May and I tried to board an army chopper to report from Dolakha but couldnt.  My wife and daughter constantly called me urging me to take care.

The day after, my colleague Nimesh Jung Rai and I got to Charikot on an Indian Army helicopter. The whole place was deserted without any houses or hotels standing, no electricity and with deep cracks on the roads.

We tried to hire a vehicle to go to Singati but no driver was willing to risk his life, given the landslides

Finally one driver agreed to take us for double the price. We got to Singati and all the concrete houses were destroyed along with the mud and brick houses. It was my hometown.

There was a stench of dead bodies everywhere, while some people were salvaging anything useful they could find from under the rubble. Putting things in perspective, I was better off. Though I was there for an assignment I wanted to see my sister Laxmi and niece Romina. I was aware that the road to her destroyed house was also damaged.

My father led the way. The Tamakoshi river was to the south of us. There were landslides everywhere, and they were waiting to be rescued but I couldn’t help them. We returned to Singati Bazaar back the same way.

Back in the old bazaar, a local Lal Bahadur Jirel was fixing an old copperware damaged by the earthquake. “I don’t have any other utensil to cook in,” he murmured.

For reporting purposes, I went to the temple where people were living in tents. The dogs had brought in parts of unclaimed dead bodies. People had not received any relief materials. There was not enough water and people were starting to get sick.

Everyone I met said, “What should we say about the problems here? You are from here, tell the higher-ups our problem.”

On our way back to Charikot I saw my brother Tapendra trying to rescue people at the bus park. It was assumed that there were 12 people buried there. My father saw my brother pulling dead bodies out without a pair of gloves or a mask on.

My father was extremely worried about the situation of his three children: me and my brother in dangerous settings and my sister in the middle of the landslide. I dropped off my father and sister-in-law at my aunts and came back to work.

It wasn’t just me who was suffering, the whole community was. I used writing and reporting as a way to forget my pain.

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