Monday, April 27, 2015

The Disaster in Nepal

We spoke with mit in Dharapani this morning. Buildings throughout the village were damaged, but no one in Dharapani or Dumre seems to have been killed. (There were casualties elsewhere in the area and villages nearer to the epicenter have been flattened.) Cell phones are working (amazing!) but power is out and the nearest solar cell phone charger is a few miles away. (We kick ourselves for not leaving one there.) The spring water is muddy but unlike Kathmandu at least they have water. The hospital up the hill at Ampipal is damaged but functioning, if overwhelmed. The roads going in and out are impassable. With rice planting season coming up, the condition of the terraces and irrigation network will be a concern. Aftershocks are continuing, so the situation could change at any time.

We have heard from some family and friends in Kathmandu and they seem to be OK, but the food, water and health situation can only deteriorate. We have not heard from others, and are hoping that is due to lack of electricity or more urgent things to take care of.

Some news reports on Saturday put the epicenter in Lamjung, others put it in Gorkha. Since Dharapani is right on the Lamjung-Gorkha border, we knew that it couldn’t be good either way. As it turned out, the epicenter was in Gorkha district, about 20 km east of us. Considering that, it could have been soooooo much worse in Dharapani. The village was fortunate but the long-term impact is yet to be felt.

Timing is everything. The quake occurred at mid-day (when people were outside) and on a Saturday (when kids were out of school).  Nepal was lucky in that regard, and so were we – a few months either way and we would have been there. One of our recurring conversations in Nepal was always: if an earthquake occurred right now, would we be safe or screwed? Nepal being Nepal – narrow alleys and shoddy construction in Kathmandu; thick stone construction in the village; steep, unstable hillsides; cliff-hugging roads – the answer was all too often ‘screwed’.  Everyone knew that an earthquake was overdue, and everyone knew it would be a big one, but life goes on and you trust to luck. Of course, Oregon is also in an active tectonic zone and a big one is due, so we are again trusting our luck – and taking out earthquake insurance.

Eugene and Kathmandu, as it turns out, are sister cities. Last night a group of Nepalis and friends of Nepal met to consider what we can do to help. In addition to raising funds, we gave a lot of thought to where to send those funds. We have a short of list of agencies and this week we will do due diligence to make sure they have capacity on the ground, a delivery infrastructure, the ability to reach rural areas, low administrative costs, and the like. Which is by way of saying…. many of you have asked us where to donate to the relief effort. We publish another post soon with our recommendation. Thank you!

We are amazed and gratified at the number of you who have reached out to us, including some we haven’t heard from in years. Thank you for thinking of us and our family and friends in Nepal.

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