Life devastated by April 25 great earthquake was crawling back to normalcy when, all of a sudden, another powerful earthquake (aftershock) jolted the nation on May 12, on the 18th day after the first quake. It has terrorized people. However, unity among Nepalis has provided healing touch to the affected people. I had two different experiences in the last two deadly earthquakes: one in my living room and another at workplace, one escaping from the ground floor of three-storied building and another from the second floor of seven-storied building. Though both magnitude and duration of the second earthquake (6.8) was less compared to the first one (7.8), I felt more scared in the second.
First, I thought it was an aftershock and decided to stay inside. But the intensity got noticeably higher. Then I managed to escape from the tall building that had started to swing and later developed cracks as well. Thank God, both the powerful earthquakes occurred during daytime. Had they occurred during the night, or on workdays, human casualty, especially school and college students and structural damages would have been immense. Schools in the affected districts were scheduled to resume from May 17, as per government’s decision.
So far the death toll from May 12 quake with epicenter in Sunakhani of Dolakha has crossed 100, while the numbers of missing and injured are around 50 and 2,800 respectively. Likewise, the toll from the first quake with epicenter at Barpak in Gorkha is over 8,000 and twice many are injured, according to Nepal Police. Of 14 affected districts, Sindhupalchowk is the hardest hit. Over 3,000 people have been killed there.
All Nepalis, both in and out of the country, have stood by the victims in these difficult times. They have lent their helping hands with what they can. Although Nepalis had earlier been divided along political, gender, ethnicity and geographical lines, they are united now. Such a bonding was not possible in any other way.
Recently, I came across an educated person in a small gathering. He told me that if the same catastrophe had taken place in Tarai, people there would have become more frantic than the people in the hills. I differed because I am from Tarai. I believe disaster brings equal trouble to all the people, regardless of their regional, ethnic and geographical orientations.
People of Tarai have felt the pain of people of the hills. Individuals and political parties based in Tarai have collected relief supplies. They have rushed with trucks loaded with relief materials including rice and bamboo, and distributed them to affected people. This is an example of true bonding among Nepalis during the difficult hours. All we need now is mutual trust, and appreciate each other’s efforts.
We know that Nepalis from affected areas are in dire straits. Some might want to take advantage of this situation. For instance, it was discovered that scores of Bibles were being sent along with relief material to convert victims. Likewise, incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse from humanitarian aid workers are also considered likely, in exchange of relief support.
It is high time we Nepalis developed a strong bonding and extended all possible support to affected communities. This way we will not only be able to collect relief supplies but also to reach out to the needy.