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Forlorn and frustrated, Nepalis hoping for survivors

Saturday's devastating earthquake leaves Nepalis displaced and frustrated as rescue operations continue.

27.04.2015
Forlorn and frustrated, Nepalis hoping for survivors

By Deepak Adhikari

KATHMANDU, Nepal

Amir Tamang stood forlornly as more than a dozen Indian rescuers drilled into a five story building on the outskirts of Kathmandu, the Nepali capital devastated by Saturday’s earthquake.

The 32-year-old man's father, two aunts, brother’s wife and six-year-old niece were all buried in the building while praying inside a hall. He held out hope that they would be rescued alive.

By Monday morning Tamang's close friend Bikram Chepang, who had earlier told him that there were three people alive inside, was rescued from the rubble after the Indian team drilled into the building, giving him a glimmer of hope to hold onto. 

Chepang was admitted to the nearby Man Mohan Memorial Hospital, one of over a dozen hospitals where the survivors of the earthquake have been admitted.

“I hope my father and my relatives are alive. The rescuers should work more diligently to save them,” Tamang, a Nepali Christian, told The Anadolu Agency.

A group of 40 people were praying inside the church when the earthquake struck on Saturday, Nepal's single day break from the working week. 

A few blocks away on Monday morning, the Nepal Army personnel used a bulldozer to rescue a 12-year-old girl who had been left behind in the four-story building as 10 families living there escaped unhurt.

As the rescuers hit a concrete slab, her hand appeared, confirming that she was no longer alive as dozens of people gathered around to see the operation.

In the biggest natural disaster to strike the impoverished country, scenes like these have become a grim reminder of the fact that the country’s roughly 27 million people are living in one of the world’s most earthquake-prone regions.   

Officials say the remote villages in the central hill region of the country have been hardest hit by the earthquake.

In Kathmandu, most people were injured in the desperate attempt to save their lives, many jumping from buildings several stories high.

The earthquake has reduced the most iconic monuments of Kathmandu, which even survived the earthquake of 1934, to rubble.

Dharahara, a nine-story tower which used to be thronged by Nepalis during the weekend holiday of Saturday, became a graveyard for more than 50 people.

Pawan Shrestha, a police officer overseeing the search operation at the site, told AA his force rescued half a dozen people alive.

The thoughts of Apsara Nepali, a Dalit who works as a housekeeper at a restaurant near the Kathmandu Durbar Square, turned towards her sons aged two and four, when the disaster struck.

Standing amid the ruins of three 14th-century temples in the world heritage site -- a major tourist attraction in the Durbar Square -- she recalled the day of the disaster.

“My first thought was to rush towards my room to save my kids. Thankfully they were unhurt,” she said.

On Sunday afternoon, she emerged from her rented room after a powerful aftershock hit, her hands coated with wheat flour.

“I and my kids haven’t eaten anything since the earthquake. So I was preparing bread for them, but I felt the tremors and left for a safe place,” said Nepali, whose husband works as a migrant worker in the Middle East. 

“I felt that we would all die. I had never experienced anything like this,” she said, her eyes bleary from lack of sleep.

Durga Katwal, 58, a vendor with a family of five including two teenage daughters, said his heart broke when he saw that the Kathmandu Durbar Square, where he used to ply his trade, was covered with dust and bricks.

“I can’t believe this. And I can’t stay at home. So I am roaming around the disaster sites, volunteering in some places,” said Katwal, a migrant from eastern Nepal.

At the Nepal-India Maitri Trauma Centre, a facility built with aid from India, doctors and nurses were attending to dozens of survivors of the earthquake.

Hospitals in Kathmandu have been overwhelmed, with hundreds being treated on the floor due to lack of beds. A doctor at the hospital said hundreds more were arriving from remote villages of central Nepal, where due to lack of access, authorities are struggling to carry out search and rescue operations.

In Sitapaila, one of the worst-hit neighborhoods, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, three bodies were retrieved from a four-story building that housed a restaurant and a cooperative on Sunday morning, as hundreds of people gathered to see the search operations.

A man sat by a dead body, letting loose a shrill cry, a scene reflected throughout the disaster sites, as dead bodies are identified and ambulances arrive.

People are occupied in hasty preparations for funerals and are scrambling to secure funds to treat the injured as the city’s ATMs remain shut and most shops closed.

Across the city, most people have left their homes and spent nights under tarpaulin tents because of aftershocks and tremors that have continued since the original quake.

Despite the fact that an earthquake of this magnitude was considered long overdue in Nepal, which sits on a major seismic faultline, the authorities have been accused of being ill-prepared, drawing criticism and anger from the people.

 On Sunday, the country’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was attending the Afro-Asian Summit in Jakarta, cut his trip short and returned to Nepal.

After his return to Kathmandu, he held an emergency meeting inside the administrative headquarters Singhadarbar, whose walls crumbled in the quake, to discuss with top officials on how to handle the emergency.

The complex itself has become a site for people looking for safe places, with thousands camping overnight.

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