Devastation and Emotion in Nepal

Devastation and emotion in Nepal


I started today by walking to Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu normally full of colour, culture and life. Normally I would stay in the Northfield hotel but was advised by many to not stay in Thamel. Its tight streets and high buildings, and lack of knowing what damage has been caused, made it unsafe – especially should something happen at night. At 9 am the small stalls and shops started to open as did the outside cafe areas, but one thing was lacking – tourists. Understandably the majorities have fled Nepal, but this doesn’t stop business as usual on the streets for those that live there. A quick coffee in the grounds of the hotel I normally stay at, and the ribbon of cracks across each wall was most eveident. One of the staff recognised me and greeted me with open arms as if nothing had happened there. With more discussion it turned out he has lost his home and he and all of his family sleep at a friends, as most that work in Thamel live elsewhere in the city. Not all stalls and shops were open – the guy who has embroidered by trip shirts for 12 years and the barber that has cut my hair for 25 years were both absent – I hope they are there in 2 days when I go back!

Late morning I started the 2 hour journey to Sindhupalchok district , one of the worst areas affected by the earthquake. I first visited this area nearly 25 years ago, and is the location of many friends and also the venue where I was once a partner – Sukute beach resort. For the first hours drive out of Kathmandu the buildings did not show much sign of damage either side of the main road, however, the dual carriage way was heavily damaged with large cracks and variants of 1 meter heights in places that were normally level!

About ½ hour from my destination the true affects of the quake started to show. First the odd house completely to the ground, but by the time we reached sukute village there was not a house on the road side still standing. Piles of rubble, complete fallen walls and a whole village devastated. People sat on rubble piles as if still marking there home, and tarps stretching over piles of debris to make temporary shelters.

The resort uses permanent tent based structures and suffered no damage, so subsequently it has been the host to many international rescue teams over the last 2 weeks. Today those teams left, directed by the government, apparently not required anymore, and are starting their journey home. The rescue stage is officially over and the aid teams will hopefully be allowed to do their jobs next – we will wait and see!

After lunch I hiked the steep hour walk up to Kodari where 3 years ago we improved the school facilities, built new classrooms and supplied sports and writing materials. I was accompanied on the hike by a team of Nepalese volunteers who had arrived with me today to start looking at how and where to start building replacement homes in this area, and wanted to assess the damage.

I sat silently for about 15 minutes at the school and said nothing – words could not describe the emotions. School benches flattened by the walls and roofs, and complete destruction of most of the school. This is the case of many schools across Nepal, but a suppose there is one blessing – the earthquake occurred on a Saturday, so no school children were present! I couldn’t feel upset for long though- I had been spotted! The children from the village with the warm Namaste welcome that makes this nation so very special quickly mobbed me. After a quick introduction we then proceeded to make a jigsaw with the pieces of the broken nameplate we could find listing those that helped to build the classroom in 2011.


I descended back through the villages and a mass of rubble and broken homes stopping to chat with the folk that live there. One described the event, pointing out his home, and how all of his family were injured in some way and cattle lost. Another sadly described the loss of his mother as a result of the quake and their home falling. It appears the quake took the form of an upwards jolt, the result of which was the collapse of buildings and strangely the roofs remaining intact in many cases on top of a pile of debris.


Tomorrow I head towards the centre of the devastation to assess the damage for myself, and also look for the homes of those I know. An emotional day, but I’m preparing mentally for what has been described as ‘a war zone’ further up the valley tomorrow. These rural areas are totally dependent on outside help. No home insurance here! We need to help them.


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