Life af­ter the Nepal quake

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By KA­RINA ABADIA

SAN­TOSH Bhan­dari was catch­ing up with friends when he heard the news of the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake on April 26.

One of his Nepalese friends had just re­ceived a text mes­sage say­ing a 7.8-mag­ni­tude earth­quake had struck their home coun­try on April 25.

‘‘I was shocked,’’ he says. ‘‘We were just try­ing to con­tact our fam­i­lies there to see what was go­ing on.’’

He got through to his dad first who told him the ex­pe­ri­ence was ter­ri­fy­ing.

‘‘He had heard from my broth­ers and sis­ters so he told me they were OK. That was a big re­lief.

‘‘Then we con­tacted my wife’s fam­ily and they were also fine.’’

Both Bhan­dari and his wife’s fam­ily live in Pokhara, which is the sec­ond big­gest city in Nepal. It’s about the same dis­tance from the epi­cen­tre of the earth­quake as Kathmandu.

The dam­age in Pokhara isn’t quite as bad as Kathmandu and its sur­round­ing vil­lages, but the con­tin­u­ing af­ter­shocks are keep­ing ev­ery­one on edge, Bhan­dari says.

The Mt Roskill res­i­dent is the sec­re­tary of the New Zealand Nepal So­ci­ety, which is fundrais­ing to help peo­ple af­fected by the dis­as­ter.

Bhan­dari’s par­ents’ home wasn’t dam­aged in the quake but his aunt, who lives in Kathmandu, spent the night af­ter the earth­quake camped in a nearby field with sev­eral hun­dred oth­ers.

It’s es­ti­mated that tens of thou­sands of Nepalese peo­ple are camp­ing in fear of the af­ter­shocks.

The big­gest chal­lenge at the mo­ment is sup­ply­ing them with enough drink­ing wa­ter, food, elec­tric­ity and tents.

The death toll is more than 4000, with ad­di­tional ca­su­al­ties in Bangladesh, In­dia, Ti­bet, and on Mt Ever- est. Part of the rea­son why this fig­ure is so high is that Kathmandu is an old city which has ex­panded with­out proper plan­ning or a fixed build­ing code, he says.

And its vul­ner­a­bil­ity to earth­quakes is well known, Bhan­dari says. He grew up hear­ing the sto­ries of the big earth­quake of 1934 which killed thou­sands of peo­ple in Nepal and the East In­dian state of Bi­har.

Even still, Nepalese of­fi­cials weren’t pre­pared for the scale of dev­as­ta­tion, he says.

‘‘There’s a lot of in­ter­na­tional sup­port com­ing but it looks like the gov­ern­ment is strug­gling to man­age ev­ery­thing.

‘‘There are many re­mote ar­eas around the epi­cen­tre where re­lief hasn’t ar­rived yet.’’

The forestry con­sul­tant has no im­me­di­ate plans to re­turn to Nepal.

‘‘It’s bet­ter the re­ally skil­ful peo­ple go. We are think­ing about how much money we can raise to send to the Red Cross which can sup­port the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally need it.

‘‘It’s great the New Zealand gov­ern­ment has pledged an ini­tial $1 mil­lion and they are ready to go and help.

‘‘Right now they need ba­sic sup­plies but later on for the re­build­ing there will be more sup­port re­quired.’’

New Zealand Nepal So­ci­ety vol­un­teers have been fundrais­ing at Lynn Mall and Mead­ow­bank Shop­ping Cen­tre this week and have raised more than $13,000.

The Non Res­i­dent Nepali As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand is also col­lect­ing dona­tions.

Pres­i­dent Chakra Thapa says the or­gan­i­sa­tion is ap­peal­ing to the New Zealand gov­ern­ment and peo­ple ‘‘to come for­ward to save hu­man lives by ex­tend­ing gen­eros­ity to the peo­ple of Nepal and other coun­tries.’’

Photo: KA­RINA ABADIA Photo: GETTY IMAGES Photo: ROBERT KITCHIN

San­tosh Bhan­dari, above, is the sec­re­tary of the New Zealand Nepal So­ci­ety. Vol­un­teers and quake emer­gency team mem­bers clear de­bris from one of the Unesco World Her­itage site tem­ples in Bas­an­ta­pur Dur­bar Square on April 28 in Kathmandu. NZ Red Cross Emer­gency Re­sponse Unit in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ists Don Wal­lace and Ewan Coldicott pack for Nepal.

To do­nate: The New Zealand Nepal So­ci­ety’s bank ac­count num­ber is 01-01420053378-00 or go to nznepal­so­ci­ety.co.nz for more in­for­ma­tion. The Non-Res­i­dent Nepali As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand bank ac­count num­ber is 12-3066-0148917-01. Con­tact nrna.newzealand@ gmail.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

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