South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

SAURPANI, Nepal — Five hours by car from Katmandu, then by foot for several miles past the spot where the road is blocked by boulders and mud, people from the villages near the epicenter of Nepal’s powerful earthquake are burying their dead, despairing of help arriving anytime soon.

On Monday afternoon, Parbati Dhakal and several dozen of her neighbors walked two hours down a jungle path, carrying 11 bodies attached to bamboo poles. They stopped at a riverbank where they lowered the dead into holes.

One of the villagers pointed to the people gathered there and identified them, one by one: “Father just buried; mother just buried; sister just buried.”

Back in Saurpani, an ethnic Gurkha village at the epicenter of Saturday’s quake, Ms. Dhakal said, “we have no shelter, no food and all the bodies are scattered around.”

Two days after Nepal’s worst earthquake in 80 years, the official death toll rose to more than 4,000, and humanitarian aid was starting to flow to the capital. Katmandu’s airport had been so overloaded by aid and passenger planes that incoming flights sat for hours on the runway. Nepali expatriates were flying in, desperate to track down family members, and setting off down the airport access road on foot, rolling suitcases behind them.


A boy injured in the Nepal earthquake slept on the ground outside a hospital in Dhading Besi, in Nilkantha, west of Katmandu. CreditAthit Perawongmetha/Reuters

But outside the capital, many of the worst-hit villages in the ridges around Katmandu remain a black hole, surrounded by landslides that make them inaccessible even to the country’s armed forces. The Nepali authorities on Monday began airdropping packages of tarpaulins, dry food and medicine into mountain villages, but an attempt to land helicopters was abandoned, said Brig. Gen. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, an army spokesman.

The government is only gradually getting a grasp of the destruction in these isolated places. It is nearly impossible to identify which villages are most in need, and how many may be dead or injured, said Jeffrey Shannon, director of programs for Mercy Corps in Nepal.

“Right now, what we’re hearing from everybody, including our own staff, is that we don’t know,” he said. “As people start to travel these roads, to reach these communities, you run into landslides. They’re simply inaccessible, the ones that need the most help.”


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Fear and Limbo in Katmandu

Fear and Limbo in Katmandu

Since Saturday’s earthquake, tens of thousands in Katmandu have slept outside, wary of aftershocks and the threat of collapsing buildings.

By Rajneesh Bhandari and Sofia Perpetua on Publish DateApril 28, 2015.

The chief bureaucrat in Gorkha district, Uddhav Timilsina, said rescue crews were unable even to distribute relief, because they are confronting as many as eight to 10 landslides between one village and its nearest neighbor. He said 250 deaths had been reported so far, but that it would take more time to get an accurate count.

“Phone lines are down, electricity is out, roads are blocked, so what can we do?” he said.

In interviews, residents of hard-hit villages said their plight had not been in the foreground during the early days of the crisis. Prakash Dhakal, a native of the village of Saurpani, was in Katmandu when the earthquake struck, and visited a government office on Sunday to plead with an official to send help.

Continue reading the main storyPhotographs


Nepal Searches for Survivors After Earthquake

Nepal Searches for Survivors After Earthquake

CreditNavesh Chitrakar/Reuters

“I asked them to send 25 young people to help bury our dead and search for the injured,” Mr. Dhakal said. “They told me, ‘We can’t even rescue the injured in Katmandu. How do you expect us to do anything for you now?’ ”

As assessments of the earthquake’s destruction proceeded, Irina Bokova, head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said in New York on Monday that almost all the temples in Katmandu’s Durbar Square had fallen. 

She added that one of Hinduism’s holiest sites, the Pashupati temple in the Katmandu Valley, and Lumbini, a pilgrimage site in the southern plains believed to be the Buddha’s birthplace, had been spared. 

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Photographs: Before and After the Earthquake in Nepal

About 90 percent of Nepal’s troops, who number 90,000, have been mobilized for disaster relief since Sunday, General Pokharel said. Most of that force has been concentrated in Katmandu, though, and the army had only 12 operational helicopters available at the time of the disaster. India has since donated six more.

Some 650 injured people have been evacuated from villages to Katmandu, he said. He added that most of the injured had been trapped in buildings, and had head injuries and broken limbs.

“We are trying to use our aviation assets so we would recover them alive,” he said.

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Rescue Efforts Continue in Nepal Quake

Rescue Efforts Continue in Nepal Quake

The Indian government and rescue workers discussed the search and relief efforts in Nepal on Sunday, following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck the country a day earlier.

Publish DateApril 26, 2015.Photo by Prakash Singh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

In the past, Nepal’s government has made some attempt to consolidate thousands of tiny villages that dot its mountain ridges, some of them more than a day’s hike from the nearest road.

Though the road system has expanded rapidly, attempts to attract mountain villagers to cities and towns where they could receive government services have mostly failed, Mr. Shannon said, perhaps because they lack the money to buy land elsewhere.

The upshot, he said, is a population so cut off from the central government that most do not have Nepali citizenship cards.

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Map: Extent of the Damage From the Nepal Earthquake

“All these people, they are just invisible,” he said.

The residents of Saurpani, as they made their way down to the banks of the Daraudi River with the bodies of their relatives, described a landscape of destruction. There had been 1,300 houses in Saurpani, but one resident, Shankar Thapa, said, “all the houses collapsed.”


Villagers said luck seemed to determine who lived and who died. Nar Bahadur Nepali, a 37-year-old farmer, said most of the structures in his village had collapsed, including his house.


Earthquake victims were taken to Katmandu on Monday by an Indian Air Force helicopter.CreditJitendra Prakash/Reuters

“We survived because there was a wedding in the village, and we were out in an open area,” he said. At least 60 or 70 more people would have died had it not been for the wedding, he said.

The earthquake that hit on Saturday, shortly before noon, had a magnitude of 7.8, and early reports suggest that those villages that were damaged were nearly obliterated.

Sumzah Lama, who is from a village near the Tibetan border, was nursing her young daughter when the quake hit. Her pelvis was fractured on both sides, and she said she believed that her husband and three other daughters all died in the earthquake.

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Nepal Earthquake: Where to Donate


    • A list of some of the groups soliciting donations for relief efforts in Nepal. Go to List »

“The hills all came down,” she said, from a hospital bed in Katmandu.

Dawa Janba, who lives about two days’ walk from his home village of Langtang, said he looked down from a helicopter on Sunday as he was being medically evacuated to Katmandu, and saw that “the whole valley has been destroyed.”

He added that it seemed unlikely that more than a few of the 600 residents of Langtang would have survived.

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Survivors Rescued From Mount Everest

Survivors Rescued From Mount Everest

Rescue crews airlifted survivors from the Mount Everest base camp on Sunday after Nepal’s worst earthquake in 81 years triggered a series of avalanches.

By Carsten Lillelund Pedersen on Publish DateApril 26, 2015. Photo by Azim Afif/European Pressphoto Agency.





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