Earthquake-hit Nepalis empty out homes, shops and dreams

  • Krittivas Mukherjee, Hindustan Times, Sangachowk, Nepal
  • Updated: Apr 30, 2015 17:25 IST

Srikrishna Khatri’s knickknack shop is among the few buildings still standing in this quake-hit Nepali town, but it’s only now after a week that he is back in the store to empty it out.

“The biscuits and toffee jars are fine. The notebooks are wet, we will dry them later,” the 40-year-old man tells his two sons who help him clear out the goods. The men then truck the stuff to a safer place.

In the other end of town, people step back gingerly into their damaged homes, almost a week after an earthquake shattered Nepal, killing more than 5,000 people and rendering millions homeless.

Across Nepal, even those whose homes and shops had been spared or marginally damaged spent days and nights in the open, too scared to go back in because of constant aftershocks and rumours swirling on mobile phone texts of a bigger quake.

But with both the aftershocks and rumours subsiding now, these fearful people are beginning to go back in to their damaged homes and shops to salvage their belongings and pick up piece of many a broken dream.

Driving through some of Nepal’s worst affected earthquake zones throws up a vista of muddy debris and ruined houses as well as of people loading furniture, clothes and household goods on trucks and of families emptying out their shops.

NDRF team clears debris of a multi storey building adjacent to the Shobha Bhagwati bridge in Kathmandu. (Raj K Raj/ HT Photo)

Like Kathmandu, most towns in Nepal are full of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings that collapsed. The more modern structures withstood the quake, said to be the worst in South Asia in about 80 years.

In Banepa, just outside capital Kathmandu, Jivan Shrestha’s family is back inside their home for the first time since the temblor on Saturday.

Fallen wooden beams had crushed much of the furniture on the ground floor; kitchen cabinets lay on the dust-covered floor; the wall on one side had partially collapsed.

From the rubble in the living room, Shrestha’s 17-year-old daughter pulled out a guitar and some medals she had won in the school music competition. Other family members tried to carry the almirahs out.

"It was my lucky guitar," says Kusum, Shrestha’s daughter, trying to shake the dust off the instrument. "It was a gift from my uncle in London."

A few houses down the alley, the damage to Prem Bahudur Karki’s house was greater. Immediately after the earthquake a snapped electric wire set off a small fire that destroyed much of the furniture in the house.

"The beds and the sofa were new. I had bought them during last Dussehra," says Karki, who runs a travel agency in Kathmandu.

In another part of the same neighbourhood, the earthquake had robbed Ganesh Timalsina and his family of its long cherished dream of an overseas holiday. The family now lives in a plastic tent outside their house, which has cracked up and listed on one side.

"Who can think of a holiday now?" says Timalsina. "We had paid up for our dream holiday and now we are staring at the worst nightmare of our lives."

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