EARTHQUAKE NEWS UPDATE Friday 8th May, Day 13
FUNDRAISING: In excess of £100,000.00 has already been raised and Doug remains confident that our target of one million pounds will be reached. On top of the many cheques and direct transfers into the CAN bank account are the numerous fund raising events which will take place over the next few weeks where individuals are being sponsored for a particular event.
Thank you to everyone who has donated – Ruth and Anne are endeavouring to thank everyone personally although this task may take some time – and to all of you, either as an individual or through your place of work or organisation, we offer thanks on behalf of our Nepali staff [and their families] who remain at work.
If you would like us to publicise your fund raising activity on the website please email us with all relevant details to email@example.com. It would be helpful if you could title your email WEBSITE: EARTHQUAKE FUNDRAISING ACTIVITY.
INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE: Murari Gautam is putting together a report detailing the extent of the damage to CAN’s 40 projects; it seems that 80% have suffered structural damage and 50% will need significant reconstruction. We have received half a dozen suggested ways to reconstruct buildings and/or to completely rebuild in such a way as to withstand earthquakes in the future. We are planning to have a small working party of all those friends of CAN and IPPG UK and Porters Progress UK, who have particular expertise in the construction industry – either as architects, structural engineers, project managers or building contractors – whose ideas are being brought together with the help of the eminent architect and AC member, John Innerdale who has agreed to be involved and provide an overview.
INTERIM MEASURES: CAN is well aware that the monsoon season is about to start and has started to make enquiries of the feasibility of buying tents and marquees in the UK for shipment [free of charge hopefully] to Kathmandu. We want to ensure that the children at Melamchi, North Gorkha and Bharabise, in particular, can continue with their education.
EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS: The office has been forwarded two accounts which we would like to share with you:
The first is from Alan Oatway, who with his two companions “had briefly looked at the brand new school in the village of Simigaon, Rowaling which had been built with the proceeds of twelve years’ fundraising, and sporting a red ribbon across its doors in readiness for a grand Opening Ceremony that afternoon. We also saw the Gompa, their equivalent of a church, before checking into the lodge where we intended to spend the night. A tray of tea was provided, which we enjoyed in our room”. What happened next has a tragicomedy element to it and Alan’s first-hand account of the moment when the earth quake first struck makes for amusing reading: In his own words: …
“of my companions, Oliver had been doing some washing at the outside tap and had been thrown to the ground, but was fine. Mike, on the other hand, had chosen to take a shower; the single shower resided alongside the single toilet in a stone structure about six ft. by three ft. At first, he thought the village children might be playing games with him but, in time, the vibrations threw the door open and he fell out, just as the stone building collapsed to the ground. Where he landed the ground was moving too, and he was thrown down to the next terrace – some ten feet below – stark naked. Here he landed in a bed of Himalayan nettles! These have an even worse sting than our own. Our Sherpa scuttled around on all fours to check on us and was even able to re-unite Mike with his underwear; in retrospect this part of the event gave us much amusement as can be imagined. Mike’s escape was amongst the luckiest in this village”
But tragically twelve years of hard work was destroyed. Alan and his friends are committed to support the rebuilding of the school [see News Update Wednesday 6th May, Day 11] and CAN will be giving administrative help in this. You too can help by attending an illustrated talk in the Marchesi Centre in Windermere on Tuesday, 16th June at 7.30 pm.
Images of the damaged school are below:
The second account comes from a blog we have received from Harry and Gill Best – their blog account can be found at http://harryandgillbestfootforward.com. They were on a yoga course at Begnas Lake when the earthquake struck. Now back in Kathmandu they have taken time to draw their own conclusions about the response to what is being termed the “Great Earthquake” in the Nepali press.
The earthquake was expected and predicted. It was not a matter of an “if” but a “when”. Amazingly, the Nepal Government told international and domestic media that it never saw the earthquake coming. This is remarkable when its own Geology Department had been predicting the next big one for a number of years. The United Nations in Kathmandu practice a disaster drill every Saturday.
The Government immediately asked for foreign aid and stated that it would manage the relief operation. Money has been pledged in abundance – $154 million according to the local press as at 6th May. However, although much aid money has been pledged little money has been deposited into Government Department coffers – apparently only $3 million so far. It is hardly surprising that donors do not wish to use Government channels to distribute donated money when you consider the endemic corruption in the Government. Most people we talk to believe aid money will be diverted elsewhere and would not reach the intended recipients – we anticipate that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority will be very busy in the future.
The Government has been heavily criticized by everybody for not getting material aid to the disaster areas quickly. Only tents and tarpaulins are exempt from import tax. All goods coming in from overseas are being inspected. Consequently relief supplies are piling up at the airport.
The Finance Minister appealed to international donors to send tents, tarps, grains and other basic food supplies rather than tins of tuna and mayonnaise! We agree that the right type of aid must be sent but we are surprised as to why he is asking for grains. It has been reported that the SAARC food bank currently holds 486,000 tonnes of grain. Nepal is currently the Chair of SAARC.
As with any disaster, there are people who reportedly have been exploiting the situation. The local press reports there is a thriving black market and overpricing of essential foodstuffs. Families who have left homes damaged by the quake have been charged 500 rupees or more a night to sleep under a tarpaulin. Looters have ransacked abandoned properties. Food aid has been sold rather than distributed for free. Official aid distribution has been haphazard with several members of the same family claiming aid and taking supplies whilst other people in greater need but who are less able have missed out.
Having lived in Nepal for over a year, in our opinion some of the reporting is misinformed and offers a “westerncentric” view. For example:
The basic message that Harry and Gill want to get across is that Nepal is open for business and they want to encourage others to visit and enjoy the magnificent scenery and unique culture.
All of us at CAN echo that sentiment and the philosophy of enabling communities to get back on their feet remains as strong as ever.
Other fundraising events include: