Help yet to reach Nepal quake's epicentre

67-year-old Dal Ram Ghale of Barpak village of Gorkha, the epicentre of the earthquake, recuperating at Gorkha District Hospital. -- PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK 
67-year-old Dal Ram Ghale of Barpak village of Gorkha, the epicentre of the earthquake, recuperating at Gorkha District Hospital. -- PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK 

GORKHA (THE KATHMANDU POST/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Dal Ram Ghale was taking a nap when he was awoken by a thundering sound on Saturday. Almost immediately, his bed started shaking violently. The 67-year-old dragged himself out of the bed, ran downstairs and out on the front yard of his two-storied house made primarily out of mud, stone and wood.

Ghale’s house, which stood right above the epicentre of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Barpak village of Gorkha district, was flattened by the tremblor, so was 90 per cent of the houses in the village.

Ghale was among a lucky few who, despite being indoors at the time of the quake, survived. More than 70 villagers perished in the disaster, mostly elderly and children. The casualties could have been far worse if the earthquake had occurred at night; most of the villagers who survived the disaster were outdoors, working their land, at the time of the quake.

“I must say that I was very fortunate to survive the earthquake,” Ghale said from the bed of Gorkha District Hospital. He has suffered injuries in his head and leg; a dislodged stone block had hit him in his head and a wooden plank had nearly crushed his left leg while escaping the collapsing house.

Ghale’s 34-year-old son, Rakesh, said there were around 1,200 households in Barpak. “Most of them are gone now,” Rakesh said. “They say 400 people were killed in Gorkha district, more than 70 of them were from my village alone.”

Once a picturesque village located along the famous Manaslu circuit, all that is remaining of Barpak today is rubble piles, a lot of them.  A large majority of the villagers have been rendered homeless in the aftermath of the Saturday’s earthquake. Even their farmlands are riddled with cracks.

The condition is no different in nearby Taple village where the earthquake has damaged nearly 95 per cent of the houses. “People are living under extreme condition under makeshift tents. We have not received any relief even six days after the earthquake,” said Laxmi Pradhan, a local from Taple.

Chief District Officer of Gorkha Uddav Timilsina said geographical remoteness and bad weather condition have hindered their efforts to take relief materials to northern region of the district, including Barpak and Taple.  

“Our first priority is to rescue the injured people from the affected areas. After that, we will focus on relief distribution and rehabilitation,” Timilsina said.

According to Timilsina, there is a need of at least 50,000 tents in the district. So far, Gorkha district has received only 3,500.

“These villages were in the famous trekking route and the tourists came to see the traditional architectural houses built with stones, mud and wood. However, we never thought of the vulnerabilities they posses due to their poor structure,” said Timilsina adding, “We learnt a lesson from this disaster. Now, we will enforce and encourage the people to build earthquake - resistant structures while constructing the new buildings in these areas,” he said.

“There is a lot of confusion and lack of coordination in delivering the relief materials to the affected families living under severe conditions, without adequate food and a proper shelter,” said Shravan Kumar Joshi, chief of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Gorkha chapter. Joshi has been repeatedly requesting the local authorities to initiate rescue and relief as early possible. He has even conveyed demands of Gorkha villages at the centre, in Kathmandu.

“We have already collected over 30 tons of relief materials, but it has not been able to reach the affected families,” Joshi said.

Mounting loss

Total toll: 6,166

Injured: 13,232

Central Region: 4,122

Kathmandu Valley: 1,567

Western Region: 415  

Eastern Region: 60  

Mid Western Region: 2

Districts                               Deaths

1.    Sindhupalchok                2,071

2.    Kathmandu                     1,130

3.    Nuwakot                            718

4.    Gorkha                               407

5.    Dhading                             595

6.    Rasuwa                             304

7.    Kavre                                 286

8.    Bhaktapur                         266

9.    Lalitpur                              171

10.    Dolakha                            60

11.    Makwanpur                       34

12.    Ramechhap                     26

13.    Solukhumbu                    22

14.    Okhaldhunga                   17

15.    Sindhuli                               9

16.    Sunsari                              16

17.    Chitwan                                6

18.    Bara                                      5

19.    Parsa                                    5

20.    Lamjung                              4

21.    Kaski                                    2

22.    Morang                                 2

23.    Bhojpur                                2

24.    Sarlahi                                 1

25.    Dhanusa                             1

26.    Taplejung                            1

27.    Tanahu                                1

28.    Nawalparasi                      1

29.    Rukum                                1

30.    Rolpa                                  1

31.    Rautahat                            1