In a remote village along the riverside of western Nepal, mournful cries echo through the air, as the community copes with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that struck last Friday. Families and survivors have gathered around funeral pyres to bid farewell to 13 individuals who lost their lives in the powerful 6.4-magnitude quake.
Amidst the grief and sorrow, the people of Jajarkot district, one of the hardest-hit regions in the earthquake, face an uncertain future. Their homes were reduced to rubble by the tremors, leaving them with no choice but to endure the cold nights outdoors, desperately in need of assistance.
Jajarkot, located in Karnali province, bore the brunt of the earthquake, resulting in 157 fatalities and over 300 injuries. Some mourners by the Thuli Bheri riverbanks were so overwhelmed with grief that they fainted, requiring medical attention.
Among those laid to rest was Hire Kami, who had briefly returned from his work in India to participate in the Tihar light festival in Jajarkot. Hire Kami’s relative, Hattiram Mahar, recounted his futile efforts to rescue him from the debris. He pointed out the spot where Hire Kami was found struggling for life, urging people to be cautious.
The community rallied to dig for survivors using whatever tools they could find, such as bowls, plates, and household items, as described by Hattiram Mahar. Hari Bahadur Chunara, a friend of Hire Kami, also paid his respects and shared the chilling memory of the earthquake striking in the dead of night, leaving the entire village in a state of shock and helplessness.
As the sun set, the funeral pyres were extinguished, and the survivors embarked on a journey uphill towards the remnants of their village. Hari Bahadur Chunara expressed the grim reality they faced, stating, “There is no place to take shelter, perhaps relief materials will arrive.” Hattiram Mahar worried about the children enduring another night exposed to the cold without a roof over their heads.
Further downstream along the Thuli Bheri river, in Aathbiskot, Ganesh Malla, an earthquake survivor, received medical treatment for his injuries. He recollected the harrowing experience of being airlifted to a hospital, where he joined 30 other survivors. Tragically, he lost his two daughters, and his wife and son were also injured, but he was unsure of their whereabouts.
Padam Giri, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital, remembered the overwhelming influx of patients in the quake’s aftermath. He shared that some survivors arrived without proper clothing, and they had to provide them with essentials.
Kul Bahadur Malla, another resident of Aathbiskot, made a heartfelt plea for assistance, emphasizing that the victims had lost their homes. He implored the government to provide temporary arrangements for shelter and food.
While the epicenter of the earthquake was in Barekot, where the damage was relatively less severe than in Jajarkot, mud and stone houses collapsed, affecting the community. Notably, the concrete houses of those who were more affluent remained largely undamaged. As Ganesh GC, a resident of Barekot, pointed out, “Floods and landslides harass the poor,” and now, the earthquake has also taken a toll on the less fortunate members of the community.