By Gaurav Sharma
Ran Bahadur Gurung is scouring for his belongings in the rubble which once used to be his house at this remote but picturesque village of Gurkha in Nepal, the epicentre of the devastating earthquake in Himalayan nation.
While rummaging through the ruins, he stumbles across a mangled aluminum container. He flings it, mumbling something in Nepali – an action suggesting that the article is of no use to this 74-year-old.
What Gurung is trying to salvage is a sack of foodgrain buried somewhere under the collapsed house.
“I have two kilograms of wheat left. How will my (80-year-old) wife and I survive? How will I build my house,” asks Gurung, who is sporting a Nepali hat.
Just beside the ruins of Gurung’s home lies a mound of broken stones and wood, amid which two women and a girl are sitting.
Aaprik, where none of its 172 homes stands, is one of the several villages in Gurkha flattened by the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck the country on April 25, killing over 7,000 people and injuring more than 14,000.
A hilly district in Nepal, Gurkha, whose men are recruited into the Indian and British armies, is one of the worst affected in the country, with 412 deaths reported by Monday.
“Of the 2.40 lakh people in Gurkha, over 1.75 lakh are affected. There are villages where no one have survived. The bodies are decomposing,” a senior district official, requesting anonymity, told this visiting correspondent.
Several villages where people were languishing in makeshift tents. Aftershocks and untimely rains have added to their woes.
Trails of destruction can be seen while moving from one village to another.
In Bungkot village, Nam Bahadur Shrestha has been sleeping in the small stable of his two cows. The 61-year-old man lost his wife to the quake as she could not run out of the house in time.
Nam Bahadur’s brothers – Im Kumar Shrestha and Dhan Bahadur Shrestha – are also homeless.
“We don’t even have tarpaulin sheets,” says Im Kumar as it starts raining.
In the adjoining village of Maskinchap, where only one of its 67 houses remains, several people were seen taking shelter under plastic sheets.
At one place, around 50 people were seen crammed under a 12×18 foot tarpaulin sheet.
All the 67 health facilities in Gurkha have collapsed. Most of the schools are now in ruins.
There is a chronic shortage of food.
In Aprik, Dhanmaya Gurung, 80, is left with only one basket of corn.
“This will last only for a few more days,” Gurung, who has one daughter, said.
“All we have been eating is chau-chau (Nepalese noodles) for the past 10 days. Providing food is government’s responsibility,” Mithi, a woman in her 40s,said.
Indian and Chinese helicopters can be seen hovering and air-dropping food packets in these villages but residents say are they not satisfied.
Nar Bahadur Gurung, who served in Indian Army and fought in the 1999 Kargil war, said that uneven distribution of relief material has worsened the siutation.
“There are families which don’t have tarpaulin sheets at all and there are families in which each member has a tarpaulin sheet,” he said.
Though the government aid is not reaching all villages, domestic and International NGOs are trying to provide succuor.
Ram Kishan, Regional Emergency Manager for South Asia at Christian Aid, said that ready-to-eat food and shelter is the need of the hour.
“We have identified a population of one lakh in Gurkha and adjoining districts. We are providing them food and tarpaulin shelters. It is a tough time for this country and we stand by them doing our bit,” Kishan said.
Though several people have lost everything in the tragedy, many have not lost hope and are showing resilience.
“Our life is ruined but there is nothing much we can do about it. It
is time to rebuild our lives,” local resident Manohar Shrestha said.