Sitting on one the world’s areas most prone to earthquake, Nepal was struck on the 25th April by one of the worst earthquakes of its history since the 1934 Bihar-Nepal one, which occurred on a 15th January causing widespread damage in Northern Bihar and Nepal.
As I write these lines, another earthquake has struck the country (12th May 2015) causing some 68 deaths while the number of deaths caused by the previous one are estimated to be around some 9000 and some 20 000 people according to officials.
It is hard to read the reports of international aid workers in which scenes of desolation, loss, and panic are omnipresent. Some 8 million people have been affected in this worst earthquake in 80 years. Thousands of houses were destroyed across many districts of the country, with entire villages flattened, especially those near the epicenter. Several of the churches in the Kathmandu valley were destroyed. As Saturday is the principal day of Christian worship in Nepal, 500 people are reported to have died in the collapses.
Several pagodas on Kathmandu Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, collapsed, as did the Dharahara tower, built in 1832; the collapse of the latter structure killed at least 180 people, Manakamana Temple in Gorkha was also destroyed. The northern side of Janaki Mandir in Janakpur was reported to have been damaged. Several temples, including Kasthamandap, Panchtale temple, the top levels of the nine-storey Basantapur Durbar, the Dasa Avtar temple and two dewals located behind the Shiva Parvati temple were demolished by the quake. Some other monuments, including the Kumari Temple and the Taleju Bhawani Temple partially collapsed. Some have been destroyed forever without any hope of being able to be restored to their original form. Even if there is a chance, it may take years to accomplish this feat.
But amidst the death and huge destruction brought upon by the earthquake, there is also hope in the form of new life. The unlikely survival and rescue of a 4-month-old is such an example. When the army first discovered the baby’s location, they were unable to reach it and abandoned the difficult search, assuming the baby was dead, according to a Kathmandu Today report cited by ABC. After they left, however, the child began crying, and soldiers returned to retrieve it from the rubble. The image of this baby made the headlines of many newspapers and can still be found on most social networks.
After the earthquake, the hardest times will come: rebuilding, rising again from the debris to build anew. As relief agencies work to assess how much physical damage has been caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, financial analysts have also begun crunching numbers to gauge the economic destruction left in the catastrophe’s wake. Rajiv Biswas, an economist at a Colorado-based consultancy, said that rebuilding the economy will need international effort over the next few years as it could “easily exceed” USD$5 billion, or about 20 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product.
In the meantime, the country needs international aid. It is our duty to help these people in every way we can. Our island though small has always been ever ready to help be it during the Haiti earthquake or the Japan tsunami. God be with them.
* Published in print edition on 15 May 2015