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News from Nepal - part 2

Cicerone Press author Sian Pritchard-Jones shares her news from Nepal and the struggles faced by the locals after the earthquake.

News from Nepal - part 2
There's a lot of damage but it's erratically located
From our own correspondent, with a little help from some friends.

Getting individual emails out is extremely slow, so some of the news below will hopefully inform those away from Nepal, but who know the country well. Please pardon the references to some personal friends and colleagues here. By the way, people are flocking to join the ‘yellow hat sect brigade’, well at least one anyway!

Kathmandu May 3
It’s a glorious morning with slightly hazy but clear views of Ganesh Himal and the Gosainkund ridges from the rooftop, enough to beckon trekkers back to the hills (next season). A large aid helicopter heads west in the willowy morning light, enough to bring tears to anyone contemplating the scenes at its destination. We wake up feeling extremely lucky that we have a roof over our heads, hot showers and good food (even though the Greek yoghurt came from Malaysia!). The Thamel area is starting to get back to normal, with shops, restaurants and money changers opening, and traffic beginning to get in the way again. Even one hash seller was doing the rounds, which is all very reassuring in an odd way. Not all the restaurants are open and most have very limited but adequate menus. The shops appear well stocked for now, with water, Mars bars and all the normal stuff.

We’ve been told there is a lot of damage across the city, but it’s very erratically located: a building completely down, with the ones either side fine or only slightly cracked. We have still not ventured far ourselves. With a lot of talking to old friends, it’s not really a very productive morning. It’s the ‘what to do’ for the best syndrome and everyone is coming over with harrowing stories, especially those coming in from the villages. Long-time visitor to the Khumbu (since being a volunteer after the fire at Thyangboche years ago), Denis Gallagher has surfaced after nearly a week camped out in the garden of his host family in Kopan. He seems quite shell-shocked and his Sherpa family have reports of damaged houses in Chaurikarkha, as well as in Phakding along the route to Everest. Little is known about the destruction of Thame here.

Also in Kopan, Mingma Sherpa, a former trekking guide who now runs the Everest Trekking supply shop in Thamel has a badly damaged house with two small children living in the garden. His business is knocked out, as trekkers have nearly all left after the season. It seems that almost fifty of the Kathmandu Guest House staff have damaged or uninhabitable houses, with many still camping out. Some have returned to their villages and one waiter has a seriously injured mother in the trauma unit in the Bir hospital. The stories are endless… We have still not heard from a guide friend from Laprak, a village close to the epicenter, north of Gorkha. Laprak has still not received any rescue missions, although one chopper is set to depart tomorrow.

Another colleague, Ian Wall, has a missing mother-in-law out in the high country of Jugal Himal. Tony Jones from Himalayan Encounters passes through the hotel with news of his rural heritage projects. Bandipur is all fine, the Trisuli Centre is fine, but the Famous Farm out at Nuwakot on the way to Langtang has some damage. It may become a holding centre for Oxfam in days to come.

The Kathmandu Guest House is a hive of coming and going; we see a bewildered group of Malaysian volunteers heading towards the Vaisali Hotel to begin their operations, when permitted. The Japanese military group appears to be a field hospital unit, but they’re still sitting in the KGH café. A few trekkers have appeared at the Hotel Moonlight today, flying down from Everest via Lukla, so limited domestic flight operations have commenced. A lot of trekkers are still missing from the Langtang village disaster when the village was flattened by ice and rock falling from Langtang Lirung. Our own plans are in tatters for now, but there’s time to consider the future.

The quickest way for the trekking community to recover here is for trekkers to hold fire for a month or so and not to completely shun the coming autumn trek season. Lodges may be down here and there, but years ago tents were the only way to trek. Some good fixed camp tents are already being used in a few spots bereft of lodges to keep trails open or deal with over-crowding. As for the afternoon - better results. Ian Wall has taken some of our tarpaulins for the Balephi area, leaving in a day or so. Steven Stamp from Mountain People and associated medical charity heads off tomorrow for the Nuwakot area with a truckload of medical supplies and other aid equipment. Binay Lama of Sacred Himalaya Trekking from east of Namo Buddha is back from his village and set again for another run of supplies for the homeless people in his region tomorrow. Not only have they lost their homes, their farm animals have also perished. Newborn babies are sleeping out in the cold.

We have placed an order for some additional tarps through his local connections. We have also been relieved of our heavy 5kg bag of Malaysian rice by Beni Ghale’s group of battered women, as stocks are low in their house. Luckily they hate Mars bars, so we are hanging on to those! All these endeavours are made possible through the generosity of private worldwide donations and energetic local people helping themselves. The big organisations are grinding along as one must expect, but it’s a long road ahead to recovery in any case. Online there’s more devastating news from Rolwaling, the area we enjoyed trekking in last year for our most recent guidebook. Many villages have been badly damaged and houses destroyed, but no help has yet reached them. Tomorrow we hope to meet with Dr Kailash Sah, deputy director of Kanti Children’s Hospital, so that will be an enlightening insight to come. Latest news tonight is that Ian Wall’s mother-in-law has been found safe and well, a happy note on which to end the day and this report.