Many thanks for your emails and messages of concern and support for Nepal after the terrible earthquake on Saturday. We have been watching TV news pretty constantly and also getting news from our friends and colleagues in Nepal via Facebook. We thought it would be helpful to send this general letter out now that it is getting a little clearer what is going on. We anticipate sending out further updates as we hear more news. Also, as we travel around doing our church visits we will give more news and be able to answer questions. If you would like us to speak at schools, youth groups etc, please let us know and we will do what we can.
When it happened: This was just after midday on Saturday. (We heard immediately via messages from teachers at KISC on Phillipa’s Facebook.) This was the time when many Christians would have been at church. Mostly it seems that this was good, because families were together and many church structures (so it seems at the present time) were strong enough not to collapse. Also many people in general were out and about – the weather was fine at the time and so fewer people were in the buildings than there would have been during the night. However, we have heard about two churches, one in Kathmandu, one further east where they did collapse and there was significant loss of life.
The extent of the damage in Kathmandu: It seems that the structures most severely affected were the older buildings, which is why the heritage sites have been so badly damaged, many reduced to rubble. Older houses too have been badly affected – many of these are made of softer brick. Fortunately it seems that most of the more newly built houses did not collapse, even though some have been damaged badly and will need to be demolished. This is a real miracle as building techniques do not generally meet earthquake standards and so very many of these new, poorly constructed buildings have gone up in recent years. Each time we went walking in the hills high above the city, looking at the urban sprawl below, we would think of what would happen when the earthquake struck………
KISC has suffered some damage. One end of the hall has collapsed and we hear that the generator has been damaged. We think that the main building is intact.
Expat mission and school staff: We have been really relieved to learn that all of our expat friends and colleagues are well and all of our Nepali friends, who we have heard news from or about, are OK. There has however been significant loss of life in the Kathmandu valley and the death toll will continue to rise. Clearly however, we have not heard from everyone, but have been encouraged by what we have heard so far.
Shelter: It seems that the majority of people are sleeping outside their houses at present as there are significant aftershocks, the largest of which have caused more damage and some loss of life. The KISC basketball court which was built about 18 months ago, specially to be ‘earthquake proof’, has provided shelter for around 300 KISC staff, their families and others from the mission community. This has been really important as there have been the seasonal thunderstorms and last night it seems was very wet. Fortunately the daytime temperatures are in the low 20s and there will be sun in between the storms so people will not be constantly cold. You can read some first hand personal accounts of life after the earthquake from INF on their website http://www.inf.org.
Outside Kathmandu: The epicentre of the quake was 50 miles north west of Kathmandu. The districts in that area, Lamjung, Gorkha (where we get the word Gurkha) and Dhading seem to be the most heavily affected. Early reports suggest that damage here has been very significant.
Many villages are on very steep hillside, so the buildings will have been damaged by both the shaking and landslides. These areas will clearly be where there will be the greatest loss of life. This is compounded by the fact that many areas are difficult to access at the best of times, with no roads, only mountain paths. This lack of accessibility will have been compounded by the quake and it will be several days before many of these outlying areas can be accessed.
The district centres, where the district hospitals are based will be the key hubs to providing relief in these places. In Lamjung the hospital is run by HDCS, the Nepali NGO which also runs KISC. International Nepal Fellowship (INF), to which Dan is seconded, is sending a team to Gorkha today and two doctors from United Mission to Nepal (UMN) Tansen Hospital, where we used to work, are going to help out in Lamjung. UMN also is anticipating being very much involved in the relief effort in Dhading.
Ongoing immediate needs: The immediate need now is for water, food and sanitation as well as shelter for those whose are homeless or fearful to enter their houses. It seems that some supplies are getting into the country via the international airport. However, this has limited capacity with only one runway and it has been closed several times because of aftershocks. Fortunately it has not been significantly damaged. The real need is for the roads to be opened up, but we have not heard about what the state of the main road from India into Kathmandu is. If this is open that will be really good news, because the road links directly into the district centres of Lamjung, Gorkha and Dhading. However, the road is therefore near to the epicentre, so it will be a miracle if it is passable.
Longer term: Nepal was already struggling to survive. This is going to deal a huge blow to the country and the economy. The tourist industry is likely to be affected hugely. The infrastructure was already desperately poor and it is difficult to see how it will be restored quickly. Nepal’s huge needs will continue long after the international media move onto the next disaster.
We have been in touch with our colleagues in Nepal and have offered to return at any time, but we think it is unlikely that we will go back before our planned date of 22nd July as neither of us have skills which are particularly needed at this time. We think our job will be to be involved in awareness building in the UK for our home leave time.
If you would like to give to help the relief effort, you can donate directly to UMN and INF. We know that they are already working to reach the remote areas and they have many years of experience in Nepal, providing development and relief in rural areas. Here are the websites:
These websites will also give you up-to-date news from Nepal.
If you have difficulty getting on to these sites – they might at times be overloaded or down, you can also give via CMS – just follow the lnks
Please join with us in praying. (The list is endless, here are some for starters).
• For the people who are safe and praying for those who have been bereaved.
• For the people on the ground in Nepal who have been working hard in the initial relief efforts.
• That aid is starting to reach Kathmandu and also for the work of INF and UMN in the districts close to the epicentre which is starting today.
• That the aftershocks would quickly cease and people can return to their homes and start the clear up.
• For the rescue teams that they can get to those needing help quickly and that they too will be kept safe.
• That the roads can be opened up soon to allow essential supplies to be moved to where they are needed.
• For wisdom for the leaders of UMN, INF, HDCS as they plan for the relief effort with other agencies. That this would be well coordinated to avoid delays.
• For the KISC directors as they decide when it is safe to reopen the school.
• For the senior students at KISC who are coming up to their exam time that they might be able to get back to studying and doing their exams.
• For the expat mission staff: that those who need to be in Nepal now, but are away, can get back and those who need to leave will be able to get flights out.
Thank you so much,
Dan and Phillipa