Asia, Nepal, Social Justice, Travel

INTERVIEW: First Responder in Nepal Earthquake

On April 25th, an earthquake measured at 7.8-8.1 hit the country of Nepal with full force. As of today, there are more than 7000 people dead and at least twice that many recovering from injury. The Nepal earthquake is the largest disaster’s in the countries’ recent history. Hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed and entire villages were leveled leaving displaced people all over the country. Luckily, my friend and colleague, Nazu Poudel and his family escaped the disaster with their lives. I was able to connect with him via Facebook to bring you updates of the conditions on the ground.

Razu can you give us a bit of background about you and your family?

We are an average family. It is me, my mother, father and sister. We moved from our village in Dhading when I was 5 years old to Kathmandu. Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal. My father owned a small wool business. When I was 16 years old, I finished school and I started working in Thamel. Thamel is a tourist destination in Nepal. I am 27 years old and have been working in tourism for 11 years. My parents are older and not able to work. My dad helped me to start my tour business. My dad and mom couldn’t get pension so now I support my whole family.

Damage Nepal Earthquake
Photo Credit: DFID UK

That’s incredible. It is lucky that they have a son like you. Where were you when the earthquake hit?

I went to sleep around 4am and usually wake up around 10am because I have to work at night. Electricity is difficult for us here so we use it only at night. I was in bed it was around 11:56am and was thinking I needed to wake up, but suddenly my room started shaking. I was afraid and laid down on the ground near my bed. My mind was blank, I remember people shouting outside of the house. When the earth stopped shaking, I ran.

Where did you go?

I went to find my family. After the earthquake, all of my neighbors came out to the street. We slept on the ground together. We built and slept in a tent and ate dry food. We spent the first four days sleeping on the ground in the tent. We were with 200 to 300 people but in a single tent we had 70 people together for three days. After that for next few days we slept inside of our home but stayed sleeping on the ground.

Nepal Earthquake tent homes
People with destroyed homes have been living in tarps and tents like these. Photo Credit: Razu Poudel

Is your home safe to sleep in now?

I think it is. We are still very scared. When I knew my family was safe I went to my village in Dhading which was totally destroyed. We have been very busy trying to find safe areas for my relatives. Luckily my small home in Kathmandu is safe but my families’ houses in the village were destroyed. My uncle and his family were living there.

Is your family safe?

Yes, my family is safe. We are told that we are getting aid but we are not sure when and how this aid will work for people. Still many people are fighting for food and for tents. Most of the people, they are surviving by sleeping on the ground. My family could afford a big piece of plastic so we tied it to pieces of wood on four sides and had something to cover our heads. Many people need plastic, blankets and food. The electricity is on a schedule so it cuts in and out at different times. We have water here in Kathmandu but in some of the rural areas they still need clean water. Now that my family is safe we are going to the villages to bring supplies.

Students hide under desks during practice for aftershock. Photo Credit: DFID UK
Students hide under desks during practice for aftershock. Photo Credit: DFID UK

What are you bringing with you?

We just provided what we can, a small amount of biscuits, rice and health supplies. Most of the schools were destroyed so we are trying to build another one for the children. I am talking to some Danish people who may help us rebuild the school in my village.

It’s incredible that in a time of such great need you’re able to help support others around you. Can you tell us a bit more about your business and how you support your family?

I own a tourism company called Seto Himal Excursion. We do adventure tourism around Nepal and in a few other countries. Now I am afraid that after this earthquake we will get very few tourist because the Mount Everest region trek is closed until further notice. 19 people died during the earthquake because of an avalanche. The Langtang region is totally destroyed and Manaslu region trek is highly affected also. Most of the UNESCO heritage sites around Kathmandu Valley were also totally destroyed. One km to the south was damaged and 1 km northeast was damaged too. The cultural and historical cities of Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhatkapur Durbar Square were all destroyed. There is not certainty of anything at the moment. We do not have a secure hotel, or any historical monuments, plus all the trekking trails are damaged. I do not know how I will make money to support my family. I will fight for my work, but I may have to go abroad to find more work.

Langtang Valley Napal
Langtang Valley Pre Earthquake. Photo Credit: Razu Poudel

Are there any plans to rebuild yet?

Our government is very corrupt. We hear rumors, but we can’t believe our government. I’ve also heard that the Japanese government is ready to rebuild the UNESCO heritage sites around Kathmandu Valley. We heard there is aid from a few countries and the richest people. I hope they are interested to rebuild, but I am not sure.

We are holding you in our thoughts Razu.

If you would like to help, you can reach out to Razu via Facebook or on his website Seto Himal Excursion.

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