As many of you know, the country of Nepal has suffered a massive earthquake of 7.8 on the Richter scale on 25th April and a second earthquake followed on 12th May of 7.3 on the richter scale. The death toll has reached over 8000 and the number is still rising.
It is the the rural areas that have been most affected and paid the least attention. These rural areas are getting minimal help because of the limited access to roads. Clive and I was in a remote village at the time of the earthquake and have seen the devastating effect it has had. Here is our story and why we want to help.
When the first earthquake hit on noon Saturday 25th April we were in the remote hill village of Briddim on the Tamang Heritage Trail in the Rasuwa District of Nepal. We were sat outside the homestay drinking tea and spending time with our friends Dawa, Neema, Pema, Unika & Silvia. We felt a tremor and the whole ground beneath us and the surrounding mountains began to shake violently. Beneath our feet the ground tore open into long cracks. Boulders started falling around us and the dry stone walls of the homestay started collapsing. We shouted to two fellow trekkers who were relaxing in their room to get out of the building quick. It lasted for around a minute but felt longer. You could hear devastating cries and people were fleeing their homes to the terraces and fields below - but was this safer no-one knew. We watched on as the whole parts of the cliff face across the valley sliding treacherously down.
The following moments, hours, days to follow were terrifying sleepness nights laying as the ground shook with many aftershocks and listening out for landslides hoping we were safe. Everyone in the village camped in the terrace fields. Dawa had some tents for trekking we helped get blankets and food supplies from the homestay and carried down to the terrace fields and set up a camp. Even a cowshed was turned into a shelter. Many homes had been destroyed completely flattened to the ground. We heard news that a lady in the village aged 70 had not survived. In the following days we heard puja bells
and watched as the dead was carried through the village, wrapped in white cloth.
We were 2 of 10 trekkers staying at the homestay or who were found on the path close by. Without hesitation Dawa and Neema took us all in and looked after us and made sure we had shelter and had the best of their food whilst frightened for the uncertainty of their future. They had borrowed a large sum of money from family to build the homestay "what was they to do now". This was their home and livelihood worried with more aftershocks would come more damage for their home. They were already fearful for the future of their 17 month old daughter Silvia being so poor would she get an education ? Neema’s words come back to me "Nobody will come here to help us. No government, no police, no aid… what to do?"
After a couple of days of little communication and no sign of rescue. 6 of us made the hard decision to leave our friends in Briddim. If we could make it to the next village Syabrubesi we might be able to get more information and maybe help. Dawa and Neema draped white silk scarves around our necks to bless us with good luck. We scrambled across many landslides, paths had completely disappeared and steep cliff faces remained with big loose boulders that with another aftershock would come crushing down. Every move made more rock would fall away under our feet. As we feared one landslide had just started falling in front of us and we were forced to go down a steep incline towards the road we could now see in the distance below, in hope we could get to the road or rejoin the path further down. We had to scramble down on our hands and bum our hands etched thick with dirt. After sometime we finally rejoined the path it was now getting dark with only moonlight to shine the way. There was further scrambling across landslides and crossing a suspension bridge across a river not knowing if it was damaged in the earthquake. It was the longest and most scariest 6 hours.
We arrived in Syabrubesi nothing was open and was in complete darkness. You could sense the destruction all around you. We were beckoned to a camp and offered food. There was villagers who had lost their homes and around 60 trekkers of 10 or more different nationalities in 2 camps made of just tarporlin for shelter.
It was here that we met Babou and his family. Their home and their restaurant had been completely destroyed in the earthquake. Despite their loss Babou and his family cooked their food for all the trekkers and made sure that no one went hungary or without shelter. Babou gave blankets and mats for all of us and a shelter to protect us from the rain and the cold.
We heard from a big group of french trekkers that helicoptors were coming for everyone but this led to false hope when they didn't arrive. We would go everyday to wait for hours listening out for the sound of helicopters. We would see many helicopters but they wasn't coming to Syabrubesi. There was so much devastation news had reached of villages being completed wiped out and the helicopters were needed there. We were told we were safe here and we were not a priority but then whistles would sound by the tourist police warning us of falling rocks above and to run and take cover - no where was safe. If we left there was very dangerous landslides blocking the roads there had been news of people dying who had tried to walk to the next villages how could this be safe. The phones were not working or there was no signal. We did finally manage to make a call home after 4 days and left a brief voicemail message to say we were okay but needed help and we needed a helicopter.
The next day some helicopters came for the French but only them and was told no more helicopters for possibly 2 days. I think we reached our lowest ebb many of us had resided to the frightening fact we were going to have to walk the 4 to 5 hours and across dangerous landslides to the next village where it would be possible to get a bus back to Kathmandu. Then like a miracle, we heard a helicopter. It was to take 6 people and then there would be further helicopters sent to take everyone to safety. It was the longest wait and we would be on the 3rd helicopter which flew us to the village of Dunche and then to Trusili Baazar. We were greeted by David and Dominic, The Rapid Deployment Team from the British Foreign Office. We had never been so pleased to see a T-Shirt with a union jack on it ! From here we were taken by bus 2 hours back to Kathmandu.
Both of the families who helped us are Tamang (Tibetan Origin). The Rasuwa district is mainly inhabited by the Tamang ethnical group, includes 18 village development committees (VDC) of which, the 7 most impoverished VDCs (Syabrubesi Gatlang, Goljung, Chilime, Thuman, Timure and Briddim). While rich in culture, religion and history the people from these 7 VDCs are economically very poor.
Sadly aid to the villages in the Tamang Heritage trail is severely underserved and they are in desperate need of adequate shelter and supplies with only a few weeks to the monsoon season. We want to help the people who despite their loss helped care for us like family sharing their food, drink, blankets at their own expense. Thanks to Dawa and Neema and Babou and his family we remained safe and thanks to their generousity and kindness we are able to be back here with our family and friends. We want to payback their kindness. Please help us to provide them with the essentials that they so desperately need.
Thank you for your support, it really means a lot to us!
Please visit http://www.helprasuwanepal.org.np/