Life after the Nepal quake
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.’’
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.