The picturesque hill-town of Gorkha, 141 kms north-west of Kathmandu, with a rich ancient history, does not resemble its former self anymore. The April 25 earthquake wreaked devastation in the area and reduced most of its villages to rubble.
Over 80% households in the area have been completely damaged. Officials declared that schools in the district have been shut till further notice.
Given the extent of damage, the loss of 410 lives seems less. This, say relief workers, is because of the low population density in the hills, where the average village population is just 200.
Unlike houses in the urban plains, most dwellings in the upper reaches of Himalaya are not made of brick and mortar. “Houses are made of 18-inch stone, placed one on top of the other, with wooden floors and a corrugated tin roof. Hardly any binding material is used,” says sergeant Ram Lakhan Thakur, of the Nepal police, who recently returned from a village.
Among the villages worst affected by the quake are Barpak — the epicentre of the earthquake — and Laprak. The two present a study in contrast today.
While devastation in both villages has been equally severe, Barpak, being the epicentre of the earthquake, has received the attention of the world, and has received huge relief supplies. However, Laprak, has not been as lucky and has barely received any aid.
Kishen Thapa, a constable in Nepal Police, says: “From Lakshmi chowk (the heart of the town), it takes three hours on vehicle and four hours of trekking to reach Barpak. To go to Laprak is another four hour trek from Barapak because roads are non-existent now.”
Due to the mountainous terrain, accessing Gorkha villages is extremely difficult.
The best way to supply relief would be through helicopters and planes. But given the deep valleys and the high mountains, even choppers find it difficult to access these areas.
Talking to HT, Gorkha chief development officer, Uddab Timil Sinha, says: “Scarcity of small choppers to access remote hilly locations where Indian choppers cannot land, availability of tents and food remains our major concern. Wish us luck.”