Reflecting on the Nepal earthquake

21 Apr 2016   |   Blog   |   Nepal   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  natural disaster, earthquake, Nepal earthquake   |   No comments

Streets in Kathmandu after the earthquake

On the 25th of April 2015, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, leaving almost one third of the country’s population in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

One year on, Eleanor Trinchera, Program Coordinator, who was in the country at the time of the earthquake, reflects on the event:

“As April 25 approaches, I am reminded of the scenes I witnessed in the first few moments when the earthquake hit one year ago. My colleagues and I were in the community interviewing project participants when we saw a house in front of us shaking. We decided to run into the open field, where we watched dust go up realising that houses fell down.

“As we travelled back to Kathmandu, everything ground to a halt - monks young and old from a nearby monastery sat on the road waiting to go back; goats and other animals were everywhere; brick kilns torn down; houses were totally or partially damaged and dust still rising as we drove past; people without anything congregating in the open fields. When we reached Kathmandu, the streets were filled with people. Historic heritage sites to lowly neighbourhood walls were destroyed. The earthquake affected everyone.”

Caritas has been helping affected communities ever since the disaster. In particular, we have been working to reach people who are most vulnerable during natural disasters – including women, children, people living in remote areas, minority groups, and the elderly.

An earthquake-proof home for 103-year-old Thiramaya

Thiramaya Garti Chetri is 103 years old and lives in Sindhupalchowk, a district 100km from Kathmandu. On the day of the earthquake last year, Thiramaya was lying down alone in front her house on a mat and her daughter was working in the field.

She suddenly heard a really loud noise that she thought was a helicopter passing very low over her home – which was something unusual. She cannot walk by herself so people have to carry her from one place to another. But all the same she tried to limp to see the helicopter. This was when her house collapsed and she realised she had survived an earthquake.

Within days of the earthquake, the global Caritas network launched an emergency response to help people like Thiramaya cope with the aftermath of the disaster. What people needed desperately was some form of shelter. Either because their homes were lost and damaged or because they were too afraid to sleep inside in case another strong tremor made their houses collapse, people were braving the elements and sleeping outside.

Although Thiramaya was lucky to survive the earthquake, she lost her home and many possessions. Caritas gave blankets, mattresses, cooking kits, water purification tablets and personal hygiene items soon after the disaster. She was also provided with corrugated iron sheeting for a temporary shelter.

By November 2015, Caritas began the next phase of the response – a recovery program to help Nepalese communities rebuild their lives. Over the course of three years, the program aims to do everything possible to help Nepalese have a stable life by providing shelter, cash-for-work, restoring safe water supplies and hygiene and sanitation facilities. There is also a focus on safety with investment in building communities’ resilience to future disasters and training in protection issues.

Through this program Thiramaya will receive a new earthquake-proof home in which she will have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

She is thankful for the help she has received from Caritas, but she has one wish, “Before I die if I could see a home rebuilt for my daughter I will be pleased and my soul will rest peacefully.”

Thiramaya Garti Chetri sitting under a tree

Looking forward

Caritas is continuing to help communities recover from the earthquake after the initial emergency phase.

“Now we are shaping a future alongside our Nepali brothers and sisters,” says Fr Silas Bogati, executive director of Caritas Nepal. “We will build earthquake-resistant houses so people feel safe, we’re making sure children can go to school, families have water and we’re ensuring people sow their fields and reap their harvests, among many other things.”


Find out more about Caritas' Nepal Earthquake response


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