Current situation at the epicentre Sunkhani, Dolakha

Current situation at the epicentre Sunkhani, Dolakha

There was a second Great Nepal Earthquake yesterday. As reported in the Nepali language newspaper, the epicentre of the 7.3 or 7.4 magnitude earthquake lay in Sunkhani itself in Dolakha district. 

Please disregard the first BBC report today, which initially put the earthquake in “western” Nepal, and later foreign media reports which even named Mt. Everest or Namché Bazaar as the epicentre.

At Sunkhani, the earth has cracked open in many places. Bulldozers are needed to reopen the road to and from Sunkhani. Until the roads are reopened and repaired, the only way in and out is by helicopter or a trek of many days on foot. At this moment the people of Sunkhani are isolated.

Because of the newly opened crevasses and the fresh avalanches, there is not much place to pitch one’s tent. Most of the temporary shelters which Krishna had built are still standing, and Krishna’s family are alive. There are many new dead, however, and there are no areas that look stable.

During the earthquake and during each of today’s aftershocks, large boulders come charging down the mountain. One boulder crushed to death a great uncle of Krishna’s who could not run out of the way fast enough. Dodging boulders is difficult because the earthquake knocks you over, and there is no sure footing anywhere.

The people are tending to wounded survivors as best they can in the absence of any medical help. Sunkhani village needs not only medical attention. Food must urgently be flown in now. The survivors are hungry.

Future prospects

Today’s first assessment is that people will be unable to remain in Sunkhani and Sundravati during the rainy season, which has yet to commence. The entire side of the mountain is now unstable. There will be far more avalanches than usual during the coming monsoon. At places such as Sunkhani, they will have to start their lives again after the rains on whatever physically still remains of the actual land on which they used to live.

There were numerous avalanches today, and much of the land itself will disappear in the torrential downpour of the coming months. Avalanches during the rainy season are the norm. Looking at their lands today, the people of Sunkhani assess that much of the area on which they have always lived will be lost during the impending monsoon.

In their own villages, people have no food or shelter. At this moment, on the evening of the second Great Nepal Earthquake, people want to be evacuated from their villages, but where can they all go?

Tudikhel after the second quake!

Field Report – Tudikhel and Sanitation – morning of May 12, 2015

Omprakash Gnawali, filing to nepalquake.org

When I visited camp Tudikhel this morning, I saw quite a few people
still staying there (3). There is a gate on the western side where we
parked our motorcycle. There were about 10 other motorcycles there,
some near the opening, which we can call a gate, or on the
sidewalk. Likely these motorcycles belong to temporary residents in
the camp. One cannot take motorcycles in to the camp, at least not in
open daylight. There is a solder standing at the gate. Our walk
through was going to start from the west, go all the way to the east
side, then towards Bhadrakali and back to our motorcycle.

As one walks in, and even if one does not walk in and walks round
Tudikhel, one can see three major types of tent here. The blue ones
are gift from China. The tent looks likes a mini home with vertical
side walls with ropes fixing the tent to the ground. These tents say
PR China in large letters and has the distinct Chinese flag printed
just above the front entrance. These are the most numerous in the camp
and occupy approximately the western half of the camp. There are light
and dark green tents on the eastern half. The dark tents, which have
slanted side flaps coming all the way to the ground, are a gift from
Nepal Army (6). These tents have some serial number, consisting of
Nepali letter and a number printed on them. I did not find out about
the bright green ones. There are probably a total of 50+ tents even
today.

It is a sunny morning in Kathmandu with clear skies. A favorite thing
to do in Kathmandu when it is warm is to step outside your home, or to
go to your kausi, and sit in the sun and chat (gham tapne). Quite a
few families, who are temporary residents of camp Tudikhel, were doing
exactly that. The topic of the chat is probably different from the
ones during the winter sun. In between the rows and rows of tents,
kids were busy playing various games. I spotted a few playing
badminton. Some other kids were running around chasing each other. I
am not sure what game this is but they seemed to be enjoying it; they
were laughing and screaming (4). Many families were cooking their
meals. Usually daughters and women in the family.

I was curious about the one prominently placed green water tank South
of the main tent area (5). I chatted with one of the women (nani)
cooking a meal for her family. She said that the green water tank has
water only for washing and such. Drinking water is distributed by an
army tanker in the north-eastern corner of tudikhel. The drinking
water tanker is at quite some distance from many tents, so some
residents brought their own buckets with a tap to avoid frequent trips
to the water tanker (7). Earlier when we were on our way to Tudikhel,
we had found one water tanker, a gift from Germany, on the road
between Tripureshwor and Tudikhel. A German flag prominently flies
above the tanker with signs announcing free drinking water (1 and
2). This tanker is within 10-15 minutes of walk from camp Tudikhel.

Camp Tudikhel also has shower facilities, which are made out of tarps
(8, 9, 10). There are different sets of showers for men and
women. There is a big water tank outside the shower tents. I asked one
of the kids nearby how to use the showers. You are supposed to bring
your own container (e.g., a bucket) and fill it up at the water
tank. Then you take your water to one of the shower stalls and take
shower. Looking inside the shower, it looks like a place that will
give some privacy and that’s it (12). The kids were saying people are
defecating and urinating in the showers stalls now. This may be
because most of the toilets are blown away by wind. When I was in the
shower area, the kids were taking showers right next to the water tank
instead of in the showers (13). The showers are a gift from Oxfam.

Walking in the direction towards Bhadrakali, we get to the toilets. We
saw three types toilets. First, there are temporary toilets similar to
the ones I had seen in the US. These are individual hard plastic
structures, one or two per set (14). The ones in Tudikhel had waste
pouring into the pits dug in the ground. There are quite a few pits
that were dug but never used (20). The second type is toilets in a
bus. There were two of them (11, 18, 19). The third type, almost at
Bhadrakali may be the ones we saw on Facebook as local innovation in
toilets a few days after the earthquake. These are trenches dug in the
ground and blue tarps being supported by bamboo sticks to give some
privacy while going toilet (21, 22, 23). It was surprising these
low-tech toilets are the only toilets left standing and
operational. The trenches were 1/4 to 1/2 full of mostly liquid and it
was not too smelly. My guess is people started using the toilets with
more privacy and overflowed them so these low-tech toilets did not see
much use until the other toilets were toppled by the winds. Then
people partly used these toilets and some may have used the shower
stalls. The hard plastic ones (first type) had all toppled due to
strong wind and rain last night leaving the pits with human waste
exposed (14, 15, 16, 17). The toilet buses were not operational. I
actually saw people go into these third type of toilets and use
them. These also have a separate section for women. These toilets are
next to the overhead pedestrian bridge. I saw one person on the bridge
looking at the toilets from the top. These toilets do not have
roofs. Next to the toilets, the whole southern edge of Tudikhel had a
lot of rubble (24). Probably this is where the rubble from cleanup is
being dumped for now.

Tudikhel is starting to attract the regular users of the open
ground. I saw one person doing a namaste-like pose and walking
briskly. I thought he was going to the toilets near Bhadrakali but he
kept on walking around Tudikhel. Turns out he is in some sort of
morning walk with a namaste pose. I saw another person jogging around
Tudikhel, inside the fences. Now walking towards Nepal Airlines
Corporation building (westbound), we pass through more open space
without tents. We pass by African soccer players setting up their mini
goalposts and practicing soccer (25). They probably play for one of
the local professional clubs.

Walking on, when we got closer to the gate, we saw a few people
picking trash and dragging a trash container (26). I asked the lady if
she works for Kathmandu metro (nagarpalika). She nodded and said
yes. Looking towards Ranipokhari, we saw quite a few people packing
up, slowly dismantling a few tents. It looked like people are ready to
move on but they will do so at their pace. They did not seem to be in
too much rush to leave.

Finally, when we stepped out of the gate, we saw a public service
announcement from Kathmandu metro about proper sanitation to keep the
environment healthy and safe for everyone (27). When I took a final
glance into Tudikhel, I still saw the soldier standing attentively
near the gate.

Credit: Travel logistics Shyam Gnawali

More aftershocks!

After about an hour, there was another shock. This one was weaker than
the earlier one and was short. But we were already sensitive to any
quakes or any shouting of “aayo aayo” indicating there is an
earthquake. We repeat the same process. Grab phone and run outside. We
started talking with someone who was already in the middle of the
road. He was saying this earthquake has made him tired (dikka) because
it keeps on coming. This time not many people were on the streets as
there were an hour earlier. After around 20 mins we come back.

Field Report – Aftershock of the morning of May 13, 2015

Omprakash Gnawali, filing to nepalquake.org

It was about 2:08am on Wednesday, when I was woken up by my brother with shouts “dai! dai!”. When I woke up, I realized it was an earthquake. The shaking seemed violent. I heard rumbling sounds, the sounds the buildings make when they and things inside them shake. I grabbed my phone and ran outside with my brother. It was dark and not everyone had gone outside but more and more people had woken up and they were looking out from their homes or tents. We walked on the alleyway for a few minutes.

Many of the residents of the tents had woken up, flickering lights inside their tents. Many people had come outside and were squatting-sitting on the side of the streets. People were talking to each other and the level of conversation was as if this was in the middle of the day. We also heard a lot of dogs barking, near and far. We stood outside for about half an hour and came inside. There is power cut but we are powering lights from inverter. We decided to keep the lights on when we sleep this time so it is easy to run outside. Most of the conversation has quieted but we are starting to hear roosters crowing (bhale basne).

Field Report from volunteer on the ground

Field Report – Tripureshwor Chowk, Kathmandu Earthquake of May 12, 2015 Omprakash Gnawali, filing to nepalquake.org I was waiting for a friend to pick me up in Tripureshwor chowk and the 7.4? Richter scale earthquake struck. It was a few minutes before 1. The buildings started shaking. I saw two buildings leaning on each other. It was rolling. The cables and the poles started shaking. Then all of us started running to the center of the chowk. We were worried about the long poles for lighting at Dashrath Rangashala. The chown was now packed with all of us fleeing the buildings that were swaying back and forth. Looking towards Koteshwor chowk, we saw lots of people and vehicles stopped in the middle of the street. We saw people jumping out from the front doors to the middle of the street. We also saw lots of dust in that general direction indicating damage to buildings that were already damaged from the previous earthquake. From the chowk, looking towards Tudikhel, we saw bunch of people and vehicles jam packed. Looking towards Kalanki chowk, we saw people everywhere. We were trying to stand close to the center but not too close because it also had structures that we were worried would fall. I saw traffic police holding each other’s hand, terrified. Some people were sitting on the road because they were scared. Some people were frantically calling saying they are ok. Some people were saying this earthquake is as strong as the previous one. I do not know. I was not here last time. This time I am here. When the shaking stopped, we stayed in the middle of the road for a few minutes. Then, we started hearing a lot of vehicles honking everywhere because they were frantically trying to get to wherever they needed to go. After 30 or so minutes, we started hearing helicopters buzzing above. Army mobilized immediately to clear debris to due falling wall nearby. Signing off about one hour before the initial shock, which started a few minutes before 1PM local time.

Field Report – Patan Durbar Square – May 9, 2015

Omprakash Gnawali, filing to nepalquake.org

I was at Patan Durbar Square for about 20 minutes around 530pm on May
9, 2015. It looks different from what one used to see in the previous
visits. In the previous visits, the place used to have a large number
of foreign tourists as well as locals milling in the chowks. The
central area is now closed off by the police. There are a good number
of onlookers outside the police ropes looking in to the central
closed-off areas. I found a few people from local areas who had come
for a visit to see for themselves what they had seen on the TV. They
would talk to each other about what they remember and they would point
to artifacts they see and they don’t see.

Many of the temples have sustained severe damage. Museums and many
other offices in the Durbar Square are closed. Krishna mandir has
poles sticking out from every possible window to provide support for
what is left structurally. The central walkways have been cleared of
debris and looks like a dirt road.

We decided to walk counter-clockwise around the walkable and not
closed-off area of Durbar Square. I was not expecting but was able to
see many young men and women hanging out in the durbar square
like what they do in normal times. These are public places where people
go to sit down on many of the steps near these sattals and chat.

On one side of the Durbar Square, the ISCONN had a Hare Ram Hare
Krishna chanting going on. They had a banner explaining they are doing
this in memory of those who perished during the earthquake.

Continuing our walk, we ran across tents that are in the front areas
of one of the longer buildings. These are likely where the police and
armed people force personel are staying as they provide security to
the area.

Continuiing counter-clock wise, we enter a tiny alleyway
(galli). There was a sign saying, do not proceed because there is a
damaged house in there. One of the elderly man who was standing nearby
said, it is ok and motioned us to just keep on walking. So, we
did. Yes, there was a badly damaged house with most of its parts
strewn on the path and some parts that looked like they didn’t want
to wait too long to fall.

The city definitely seemed alive. Except for a few restaurants and
stores, most places seemed to be open for commerce. People were
walking and moving about. The traffic was lighter than normal but when
one was not in the immediate sight of a damaged building or rubble on
the ground, one could almost pretend this is a normal day in
Kathmandu. Of course, for people who lost their lives and property, it
will be a long time before it will be a normal day and for some it may
never be.

Hope this report provides perspective on what people are doing
near these places, not something you typically hear in broadcasts that
focus only on the monuments destroyed.

Credit: Shyam Gnawali for travel logistics.

– om_p
Kathmandu, Nepal

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