Nepali Times

Relief superstar

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Annapurna Post, 12 May

Pics: Rajendra KC

Nepali actor Rajesh Hamal with CEO of Direct Relief Thomas Tighe. Pics: Rajendra KC

Under the initiative of Nepali actor Rajesh Hamal, relief materials worth Rs 1.6 billion was brought to Nepal on two chartered FedEx Express aircrafts, first of which landed on Saturday and the second on Monday. The relief materials which contained large volumes of IV solutions, medicines, surgical supplies and other medical essentials was sent by American non-profit medical organisation Direct Relief.

Rajesh Hamal2

Actor Rajesh Hamal at the Tribhuvan International Airport on Monday night to receive medical supplies worth Rs 1.6 billion sent by American non-profit Direct Relief.


The medical supplies will be handed to Nepali NGO Possible that has been working to provide free quality healthcare to people in far-west Nepal.

Rajesh Hamal3

Pic: Rajendra KC


Actor Rajesh Hamal was present at Tribhuwan International Airport on Monday evening to receive the aid from chairman and CEO of Direct Relief Thomas Tighe.

Rajesh Hamal4

Pic: Rajendra KC


“FedEx has waived Rs 75 million, the fare of both the aircrafts as their commitment to helping the earthquake victims of Nepal,” informed SP Kalaunee of Possible.

To read original story: 

Another earthquake hits Nepal (updated)

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
A four-storey building collapsed in Nayabazar following the earthquake. People are believed to be under the rubble.  Photo: Dambar Krishna Shrestha

A four-storey building collapsed in Nayabazar following the earthquake. People are believed to be under the rubble. Photo: Dambar Krishna Shrestha

More people were killed and more houses collapsed when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake rattled Nepal at around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The death toll from Tuesday’s earthquake has reached 59 so far and is expected to rise further.

Ramechhap and Dolakha are among the worst hit districts. Casualties and damages have been reported from Sindhupalchok, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur as well.

Around 200 people have been reportedly injured in different parts of the earthquake-affected districts.

According to Dhan Prasad Chaulagain of the Lalitpur District Post Office, his 55-year-old uncle Chitra Prasad Chaulagain and aunty, whose name has not been ascertained, were killed when their house went down in Bhimeswor municipality-5, Dolakha.

Ministry of Home Affairs has confirmed three deaths in Teku, Samakhusi and Matatirtha in Kathmandu. One of the three killed is an 11-year-old girl. She was crushed to death by a wall.

Several houses have collapsed in Naya Bajar and Gongabu areas of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. More people are believed to be buried there. Rescuers are busy pulling out people alive.

After the earthquake, Kathmandu’s only international airport was closed for almost half an hour. People had rushed out of their houses, offices and the airport after the earthquake. There were at least five aftershocks within the first hour of the earthquake.

According to Bhakta Kumari Lama, a student union leader currently in Boch village of Dolakha, huge palls of smoke swirled around after the earthquake. Lama said the earthquake triggered landslides on the surrounding hills.

Two weeks ago, just before noon on 25 April, a 7.8 earthquake epicentered around Barpak of Gorkha, had rattled central and western Nepal, killing more than 8,000 people and leaving more than 17,000 people wounded.

Tuesday’s earthquake, epicentered around Namche bazaar of Solukhumbu district, strikes at a time when search and rescue works continue for the 25 April earthquake survivors.

Schools closed down after the 25 April earthquake were scheduled to be reopened from coming Friday. Education officials are now discussing whether they can reopen schools from this week.

Moving to safer shelters

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Chiran Magar builds a safer temporary shelter behind his damaged house in Chalnakhel, Kathmandu. Photo: Om Astha Rai

Om Astha Rai

Chiran Magar, a 29-year-old mechanic, spent over the last two weeks under a makeshift tent after the 25 April earthquake damaged his house.

“Life was hard under the tent,” says Chiran. “It used to be more difficult when it rained, my little children would fall sick under there.”

Early this week, Chiran’s family moved to a safer shelter house made of iron rods and corrugated sheets.

“It’s much better here,” he says. “We’re less worried about the rain.”

Chiran built the shelter house by using materials provided by Karuna Foundation, a Netherlands-based NGO, working in Nepal since 2007.

In Chalnakhel village, situated on the southern outskirts of Kathmandu Valley, Karuna Foundation has provided materials to build temporary shelters to 60 families. While 10 families are building temporary shelter houses like Chiran’s, others are using the corrugated sheets as roofs for their new houses.

The arch-shaped shelter house built by Chiran costs less than 100 USD (Rs 9,600). It requires just three pieces of iron rods and nine pieces of corrugated sheets, apart from nuts, bolts and iron wires.

“These shelters are safer and stronger than tents, yet cheap and easy-to-built,” says Chet Kumar Khatri, a civil engineer specialised in earthquake engineering. “If we have all the materials ready, we can build a shelter in less than an hour.”

Khatri is guiding people to build cheaper, safer and stronger shelters in Chalnakhel, where nearly 80 per cent houses have been damaged by the earthquake. He says: “These shelters can also be moved to different locations.”


More villagers are building safer temporary shelters in Chalnakhel, Kathmandu. Photo: Om Astha Rai

Karuna Foundation has received support from Dutch NGOs like Reach Out 2, Femi Foundation, Netherlands Leprosy Relief and Liciane Foundation to help build temporary shelters for more than 2,000 displaced families.

Karuna Foundation copied the model of arch-shaped shelter houses from Pakistan. After a devastating earthquake, thousands of Pakistan families had lived in similar arch-shaped shelters until they rebuilt their houses.

Deepak Raj Sapkota, country director of Karuna Foundation, says they came up with the idea of helping the displaced families to build safer and stronger shelters because of two reasons: delay in reconstruction and the fast-approaching monsoon.

“Monsoon is just around the corner and the displaced families are not able to reconstruct their damaged houses right away,” says Sapkota. “Living in safer shelters, they can plan and construct better and stronger houses.”

Speaking in the parliament last week, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala pledged a grant of Rs 200,000 for each displaced family for the reconstruction of their damaged house. He also pledged a soft loan of up to Rs 2.5 million for the displaced families in Kathmandu and Rs 1.5 million for other earthquake-affected districts.

But the process to distribute reconstruction grants and loans is likely to take some time and most of the displaced families will not be able to build their houses before or during the monsoon.

“Look at the people displaced by last year’s Jure landslide in Sindhupalchok, they’re still living in temporary camps,” says Sapkota. “There were fewer victims then, but the government still failed to rehabilitate them. This year’s earthquake is a much bigger disaster and rehabilitation of the displaced families will take a much longer time.”

He adds, “There is a dire need to help them build safer shelters as soon as possible until they can reconstruct their houses.”

In Chalnakhel, Chiran is planning to fortify his temporary shelter by using stones, bricks and cement on the floor. “I don’t know when the government will give us money to rebuild our houses,” he says. “Perhaps, we’ll have to live here for longer than we had previously thought.”

Read also:

As remote as Kathmandu

Life after deaths

Searching for a heart of gold

Monday, May 11th, 2015

People who have little are sharing what they have, those who have everything want more.

Pic: Dambar Krishna Shrestha

Pic: Dambar Krishna Shrestha

Ten days after the earthquake, my colleagues and I headed to parts of Rasuwa, Makwanpur and Nuwakot that hadn’t received any relief at that time. We went there as both journalists and relief workers, carrying supplies bought with funds collected from friends and families.

As our car drove into Gerkhu village of Nuwakot in the mid-afternoon on 6 May, we saw an elderly woman (see pic).  “I have no one left in the world,” she said, her face at the window of the car. Although our initial plan was to eat first, and then begin distributing the supplies we had brought, our hunger subsided after seeing her. Handing her a packet of instant noodles and two packs of biscuits, I told her: “Eat these for now, we will come back to you later.”

“Why are you giving me so much, please give these to others,” she said and returned the biscuits.

When our driver Sanu Kancha Tamang tried to give her money, the woman initially refused to accept saying, “Why do you have to give me money when I don’t even have a purse.” She later accepted the money, tucking the notes inside her patuka.

Himal’s photojournalist Devaki Bista tried to hug her but the woman threw her hands away saying, “What have you done, girl? Don’t you know that I am an untouchable Dalit?”

Aama, what is your name? How old are you?” I asked.

“I don’t remember my name. I was four during the 1934 earthquake,” she replied.

My eyes welled up, Devaki was also tearing up. Sitting behind us, stand-up comedian Manoj Gajurel looked sombre. Never had I seen the man who is always making others laugh so serious.

The great earthquake has brought Nepalis together. A lot of individual Nepalis not affiliated to any charity or the government have come forward to help with rescue and relief. Thousands of Nepalis living abroad have returned home with supplies, while those who are still outside continue to donate generously. Amidst the sense of shared humanity in the aftermath of the earthquake there are, however, some who are so greedy they see the tragedy as an opportunity to profit. They are usually the ones who are already well off.

In Kathmandu we saw people with luxurious apartments and bungalows fight with homeless people over tents. A well-to do store owner in Nuwakot had no shame telling us to leave our supply of mosquito nets with him reasoning there were no mosquitoes higher up the mountains in Rasuwa. Relief materials collected by a group of young entrepreneurs from Pokhara meant for distribution to remote villages in Rasuwa was seized by those who didn’t need it. In Sindhupalchok looting relief supplies by young musclemen is common. There are also people who claim they haven’t received any help and continue to take packages meant for those in need.

In Gerkhu, too, there were people who had already received tents, and food demanding they be given as much as another villager who had received nothing so far. People who were bedecked in gold necklaces and rings were giving relief workers a list of things they needed. I kept searching for the elderly woman in the crowd. But, I didn’t find her. We set aside food supplies and a blanket for her and left them with a local youth, Damodar Ghimire. We didn’t have to give her a tent because we heard she lived with whoever gave her a place to sleep for the night.

When the angry crowd started getting unruly, we took the remaining supplies back to the car. As our car drove back to Kathmandu, I kept thinking of the grandmother with a heart of gold who despite being in need herself thought of others first.

Dambar Krishna Shrestha in Himal Khabarpatrika, 10-16 May


Picture over people

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Trauma victims of the earthquake get more social media attention than psychosocial support


The chaos at the trauma centre of the hospital was alleviated by a number of volunteers who looked like they had just graduated high school. All visitors were stopped at the entrance and questioned before being let in.

Manoj, 23, stands next to his younger brother who has a swollen eye and a large bandage wrapped around his head.

“Doctors say he might need brain surgery if the swelling doesn’t go down,” says Manoj. “I feel guilty because he got hurt at home and I was not there.”

There is a sense of sadness attached to every bed in the room. Some patients accompanied by families and some alone, waiting for a familiar face to walk in the front door.

Manoj catches my attention again and says, “If you take a picture of my brother for the newspaper, can I be in it too?”

An overwhelming number of international media landed in Kathmandu after the earthquake and then spread to all affected areas. Media coverage has however not matched relief and aid.

“Media does help in spreading awareness but it mostly focuses on the sad stories, there should be more focus on positive stories,” says Nir Prakash Giri, chairperson of Mental Health Foundation. “There is need for psychosocial support post disasters and it is being provided but there is lack of proper coordination among such organisations”

Giri added that despite the existence of a mental health network, there is not enough coordinated effort, which would make the psychosocial help more effective and available to a wider population.

On the third floor of the hospital, a nurse introduces me to Kelsang who looks seven. The nurse says Kelsang gets a lot of attention and may have trauma issues. She was lying on her side facing the wall, her hair unkempt probably because it had not been brushed since the first big earthquake.

Her young uncle who is next to her says, “Her mother passed away in the earthquake and her father works in the Gulf, don’t know when he is coming back.”

Kelsang continues to lay on her side, mute like a statue.

“She has not talked since the earthquake,” says the nurse. “She also broke her arm and doesn’t look at anyone.”

This little girl is not the only one in the ward who has lost her parent in this unfortunate disaster.

Before leaving Kelsang the nurse says, “Journalists and media come here, take a picture and get basic information on what happened to her and leave. That’s the end of it”.

Krista Rajkarnikar, psychologist says, “I have noticed a high level of anxiety and numbness among people, they did witness and experience a massive loss, many will require long term care.”

On the next floor, there are fewer people. A group of  women lay on one side. In the other corner a man in his forties is leading a discussion about politics and principles of life. “So the baby made it to the cover of every international newspaper and is still living under a tent,” he says, “the thousands of likes and shares on Facebook mean nothing.”


Dharara’s replica

Friday, May 8th, 2015



Gautam Man Singh with his creation: the replica of Dharara. Photo by Om Astha Rai

Gautam Man Singh, a 42-year-old, working from his home/office as a carpet designer in Sanepa, survived the 25 April earthquake.

However, Singh lost something that he held close to his earth in the disastrous earthquake.

He did not lose any of his family members, nor did he lose his house: He lost Dharara – the tall landmark that he loved more than any other monument in Kathmandu.

“When I was a child, I used to play by Dharara and take a bath in Sundhara (the now damaged golden tap)” he says. “Dharara did not stop fascinating me even after I became an adult, it broke my heart to see it crash onto the ground.”

Twelve days after Dharara’s fall, which killed more than 50 people, Singh created its replica and installed it in the Ring Road, right off of Sanepa.

Dharara’s replica has won the hearts of many who pass by this mini creation. The tiny Dharara reminds people of what used to be and touches them to the core, so most take pictures or selfies around or by it.

“It’s my tribute to Dharara,” says Singh. “I feel happy when I find others emotionally connecting with it, like I do.”

Singh created the little Dharara by using a hollow petrol drum, scraps of steel, tyres, an empty water jar and a piece of water pipe. More than 100 people gathered around his replica on the 13th day of the earthquake to light candles and pay tribute to the people who lost their lives during the earthquake.

The death toll from Nepal’s deadliest earthquake, in more than 80 years, has reached nearly 8,000. The earthquake injured more than 14,000 people and damaged more than 100,000 houses in central and western Nepal.

Singh is also the president of Reiyukai Nepal’s 8th branch, which has distributed relief materials like food, clothes and kitchen utensils worth around Rs 50 million in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dhading and Sindhupalchok districts.

“We lost a Reiyukai member when Dharara collapsed,” he says. “But it brought all of us, Reiyukai members, together to help the earthquake survivors.”

Om Astha Rai

Pangtang in pain

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Prem Bahadur Biswokarma's family in Pangtang, Sindhupalchok.  Photo: Om Astha Rai

Prem Bahadur Biswokarma’s family in Pangtang, Sindhupalchok.
Photo: Om Astha Rai

Om Astha Rai in Sindhupalchok

Prem Bahadur Biswokarma, 43, does not have time to cultivate his corn plants that are wilting away and getting infested by unwanted weeds.

After the 25 April earthquake destroyed his house in the remote Pangtang village of Sindhupalchok district, Biswokarma has been busy digging up the rubble in hopes of retrieving some belongings, building makeshift tents and running around to receive relief materials.

“I don’t have time to care for crops,” he says, while overseeing his grown-up sons who were fixing the roof of their damaged house. “In a time of crisis like this, rebuilding our house and managing food is more important than anything else.”

In Pangtang, most villagers have been too busy trying to manage enough food and a safe shelter that it has put a halt on farming, which may cause a severe crisis regarding lack of enough food in the near future.

No one is seen working on terraced corn fields. Everyone is busy building temporary shelters of waiting for helicopters to drop relief aid.

“Our legs are still shaking,” says Biswokarma. “We don’t have time and energy to cultivate crops.”

Even if some villagers want to start working on the fields, they do not have the necessary equipments. Their ploughs, hoes, sickles and other tools are buried under the huge mounds of mud, stones and timber. And they cannot make these tools any time soon as Pangtang’s only furnace, owned by Biswokarma, is destroyed.

The Pangtang villagers worry more about planting rice, due to lack of seeds, than cultivating their wilting corn plants. “We’ve lost all our agricultural tools,” says Biswokarma. “And we cannot manufacture them since my furnace is destroyed, I don’t know how the villagers will grow their crops and make a living.”

Rudra Prasad Adhikari, a 62-year-old farmer, says they have lost their seeds, too. “We used to borrow seeds from others during a crisis in the past,” he says. “But now the crisis has befallen every one, we have all lost our corn, paddy and millet seeds, and this time we cannot borrow it from anyone.”

The earthquake has also destroyed all hand mills, water mills and an electric mill: making it difficult for the survivors to grind their leftover food grains. “We’re now staying alive by eating whatever is being dropped by helicopters,” he says. “Once relief stops coming, we’ll have nothing to eat.”

Pangtang has access to roads only in the dry season. Once monsoon starts and the road gets blocked by landslides, the locals cannot bring foods from elsewhere. “The earthquake was bad,” says Adhikari. “Our lives after the earthquake are going to be worse.”

The earthquake killed nearly 70 and wounded more than 100 people in Pangtang village and the locals are mourning the loss of their loved ones. Once time heals those wounds, it will be a challenge for them to survive.

With mills destroyed, agricultural tools damaged and seeds buried, life after the earthquake is tough in the seasonally-isolated village of Pangtang.