NEPAL Earthquakes
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To DONATE or get regular UPDATES on Jesuit Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction work in Nepal see below. As of 7 July, $226,135 have been raised in Canada for the Nepal Jesuits Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Response. Thank you!

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  • To MAKE A DONATION to Nepal earthquake relief, click here.
  • To read a Salt & Light TV interview with Fr Bill Robins, a Canadian Jesuit who works in Nepal, click here.
  • To view or download a pdf of CJI’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal, click here.
  • To get regular Facebook updates from Jesuits in Nepal, click on https://www.facebook.com/sjrelief4nep?fref=ts
  • To view a video appeal for Nepal Emergency Relief, see below.
  • To read CJI updates from various sources, see immediately below.

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Sunday, 5 July 2015 – “Progress, Challenges and Hope”: excerpts from the Nepal Jesuit Regional Superior’s 3rd update

Challenges faced:

Aid and support efforts are challenged by lack of clear-cut policy guidelines to exempt customs duty on imported relief materials and other logistical constraints…

Another major challenge is to bring relief materials to places inaccessible by road. Many remote villages are still cut off from any relief as the access trails are blocked by landslips.
The onset of the monsoon season has hampered our effort in reaching the remotest villages. Carrying relief materials to the affected areas is a greater concern, as people have to carry the materials and walk 5-10 hours through steep hill climbs.

Signs of hope:

Amidst people’s struggle for reconstruction, there is still a lot of hope. On 5th June 2015, along with a team of volunteers, I visited Ranchok, in Sourpani VDC of Gorkha district, a place close to the epicentre. After travelling for several hours up to Barwa, we walked up for almost half a day up steep hills to the village. No agency had visited there, except for the army dropping food packets on the fourth day after the earthquake. Of the 250 houses, not a single one stood erect. Seventeen people died including a two year old boy named Raj and his mother Changri belonging to Biswa Karma caste.

The school, Sri Durga Secondary School, was flattened. We could see the broken desks and benches gathered in a row. Mr. Jit Bahadur Tamang, the school headmaster, had announced our visit. The warmth that we experienced left us spellbound. Amidst such calamity, the people had not lost their charm. We thought, ‘Nepal is devastated but not defeated.’ Their only request (no demands whatsoever!) was that we support their children’s education by providing learning space. We provided tents and stationery for students, and have a plan for the school. One of our volunteers, Albert Abraham, SJ remained with them for a week, providing children with psychosocial support.

Nepal Jesuit Society’s interventions:

As the emergency relief phase is winding up, we are looking forward to recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. To facilitate this process, the Nepal Jesuit Society established the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute on May 19. The objective of this institute is to accompany and assist earthquake survivors as they return to normal life.

Fr. Prakash Louis is steering the operation, providing support and advice wherever required. Fr. Samuel Simick is the coordinator for the recovery and rehabilitation operations. Fr. Boby looks after the finances. At present, 15 Jesuits from India are working in various districts for onsite assessment, supervision, reconstruction, and rehabilitation work. We have begun to consolidate the assessment findings from the eight most affected districts (Dhading, Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Nuwakot, Dolkha, Lalitpur, and Kathmandu), identifying the most vulnerable people, and planning short-, mid-, and long-term intervention.

To provide temporary shelters, we have ordered 40,000 CGI (corogated galvanized iron) sheets. Distribution of the sheets is in progress. This work is challenging because some of the mountain roads and mule trails are still blocked.

After obtaining necessary permissions from the concerned educational departments, we have already identified a few badly damaged schools. We plan to provide temporary shelter and later school reconstruction. We have also distributed educational materials (copy books, pens, textbooks, geometric boxes, and school bags) to about 3,767 students in 52 schools. We hope to reach another 30,000 students in the next few weeks. While focusing on the children in general, in Nuwakot, Lalitpur, Kavre and Kathmandu Districts we also gave special attention to more than a hundred differently-abled children. In order to enhance their livelihood options, we have distributed maize seeds to farmers in Kavre district and hope to do so in other districts. We also distributed furniture (desk, benches, and white boards) in five schools already.

Future Plans:

1. Complete the assessment in three more districts.
2. Make detail budgets and financial plans in the eight districts we have accepted. We are planning implementation procedures and tentative time frames.
3. Identify 2-3 fully damaged schools in each district and plan to build permanent classrooms with the help of competent engineers after the rainy season.
4. Provide CGI sheets to build temporary shelters, and after the monsoon, to help build houses using the same sheets.
5. Support schools in ten districts with teaching-learning centres, stationery, teaching materials, uniforms, text books, and furniture.
6. Support unreached survivors of remote places with relief materials and edibles.
7. Pay special attention to differently-abled children in eight districts.
8. Identify orphan children and bring them to the St. Xavier’s Social Service Center.
9. Identify twenty fully or partially damaged health posts, and repair or rebuild them as needed. We will hire professionals to design estimated costs, and build the posts.
10. Support farmers with seeds and other equipment as needed.
11. Provide tool kits to twenty villages.
12. Provide one water filter each to thirty schools.
13. Provide psycho-social counselling to survivors to strengthen their hope and induce a sense of social security.
14. Strengthen our partnership with agencies: Caritas, religious congregations, NGOs, INGOs, UN, and other humanitarian agencies.
15. Look for resources as needed.
16. Train our staff to improve the quality (competency, professionalism, effectiveness) of our service.

With grateful hearts:

We have been working in partnership with various I/NGOs and donor agencies and people of good will. We acknowledge the support and generosity of individual and institutional donors. We have been privileged to collaborate with different congregations of sisters in all these efforts. The support we received from various Jesuit Conferences and networks across the globe gave us a true feeling of the universal Society. We are grateful for the solidarity shown to us by Fr. George Pattery, SJ, Provincial of South Asia, Fr. Stanislaus Fernandes, SJ, Regional Director, JRS-SA, Fr. Stanislaus Jebamalai, SJ, Secretary, JESA, and Ms. Francesca from Rome, who visited us. Their presence was a grace for the earthquake survivors and the Jesuits. We thank them for their guidance in planning and implementation. Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Kohima and Delhi provinces have sent Jesuits (priests and scholastics) to support our initiatives. We are grateful to the provinces and their provincials.

As Mother Teresa said, “We do feel that what we are doing is like a drop in the mighty ocean. We do realize that without this drop the ocean is incomplete. In all that we have been able to deliver, our experience has been like that of being instruments in God’s hands.” This would not have been possible without your generous acts of love and prayers. Therefore, on behalf of the Nepal Jesuit Society, and the people of Nepal, I express my heartfelt gratitude to you for your contribution towards instilling new life and hope to the people of Nepal.

May God bless you for your generosity, love and kindness.
Gratefully yours,
Fr. Boniface Tigga, SJ ♦

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View CJI’s appeal for Nepal Emergency Relief (courtesy of Salt + Light TV) here:

Thursday, 11 June 2015 – “Rattled, Unsettled but Surviving”

(Excerpts from “Nepal Earthquake Facts and Figures – 2,” compiled by Dr Fr Prakash Louis SJ, Program Director, Nepal Jesuit Social Institute)

The 25 April earthquake was followed by a large number of aftershocks, numbering over 170 by 12 May 2015. But the powerful earthquake which struck again on 12 May 2015, measuring up to 7.3 magnitude, further devastated Nepal. It left the people who were returning back to normalcy further devastated and panicked. Though the survivors were trying to rebuild their lives after the first earthquake, the second one on 12 May left them totally devastated.

The number of people killed in Nepal by the two major earthquakes has surpassed 8,786 and injured 22,303 making the disaster the deadliest to hit the Himalayan country. Over 2.8 million people need assistance of various kinds. There are over 392 known internally displaced peoples’ (IDP) camps.

Access remains a critical issue, especially as aftershocks continue to generate landslides. The coming monsoon is expected to aggravate the condition of the roads, further hampering aid efforts.

Sustainable waste management and drainage, as well as water supply remain a crucial issue to be addressed in spite of lots of work in this regard…

The Nepal Engineers’ Association (NEA) have inspected over 38,000 houses in Kathmandu till now. Out of these 20 per cent are uninhabitable.

Children are facing an unprecedented emotional toll as they deal with the devastating consequences of two major earthquakes in two and half weeks. Parents themselves are affected by the earthquake and aftershocks. In addition to handling their own trauma, they have to take care of their children who are badly affected. Due to this, some of the parents are not able to leave home and go to work or some have to take the children to some safer places so that the children and they themselves feel safe and secure. But this is not possible for all.

Up to 90 per cent of the houses in Gorkha and Sindupalchowk districts have been destroyed…

Across large parts of Dhading, Dolakha, Rasuwa and Nuwakot districts, more than 80 per cent of houses have been flattened. The Government is currently projecting the caseload to increase to a total number of 500,000 destroyed houses…

Over 3.58 billion worth of crops and livestock have been destroyed.

Over 3 million people are estimated to be in need of food assistance. Of them, an estimated 1.4 million most affected have been prioritized for immediate food assistance.

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) preliminary assessment estimates that 50 per cent of 91 already assessed markets are functional or showing signs of recovery. Another 50 per cent of shops have been damaged or destroyed. Food stocks have been depleted or ruined and shopkeepers have been displaced or affected.

According to the ministry, over 16,475 classrooms in 6,902 public schools from pre-primary to higher secondary were destroyed by the earthquakes and aftershocks. In addition, 7,266 classrooms have suffered major cracks while 12,613 have minor damages. The number of destroyed toilets is 1,436. Over 3 million students in 39 districts have been affected due to the tremors. Classes cannot be started in such schools without arranging for classrooms. The Department of Education has released Rs 25,000 for each damaged classroom for the temporary arrangement. It has asked the schools to use old zinc sheets if possible. Otherwise, they could use locally available materials such as bamboo, thatch and tarpaulin.

Though the government has released Rs 5.53 billion to provide relief packages in all the 38 quake-hit districts, not all victims will be receiving the announced Rs15,000 cash immediately. The reason is that District Administration Offices (DAOs) are opting for different strategies for cash distribution. Some DAOs are planning to distribute the money within a couple of days while others said they will distribute it only after issuing identity cards. ♦

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Tuesday, 9 June 2015 – Update from St Xavier’s Mission, Tipling, by Fr Samuel Simick SJ

We have things moving a bit closer to Tipling village now. On 7 May, we loaded six trucks full of relief materials, five trucks with tin [roofing] sheets and one with rice. We organized a group of 20 volunteers to help us load, transport, unload and guard the materials. We thank Nepal Don Bosco Society for providing us with 250 bundles of tin sheets.

On 8 May, early in the morning, we left Kathmandu trying to reach Somdang through Galchi, Trishuli, Dhunche, Shebru besi and Gatlang. We had a smooth road till Shebru besi, and then a rough one till Manchet Nepal Army base. From there the road to Somdang is not yet repaired, about 30 kms. Therefore, we had to unload the materials at Manchet Army Camp. We are grateful to the Nepal Army for helping us get the things as far as Manchet. Lt. Colonel Laxman Thapa helped to clear a landslide for the truck to reach the Camp. Cap. Kokil Praja and his troops helped us to unload and store the things. Our two volunteers—Markus and Marcel—have stayed back to guard and organize the trip to Somdang. The blocked road could be repaired within two days.

Five people from Tipling reached Manchet Camp last evening. This morning 17 people left for Tipling on foot. They plan to stay at Pansang Pass tonight and reach Tipling by tomorrow. I am back to Kathmandu again! You will be seeing me in Kathmandu regularly now! ♦

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Thursday, 4 June 2015 – Update from Tipling by Fr Samuel Simick SJ

Under the guidance of Fr. Norbert, our four scholastics together with Nepal Army personnel started to remove debris from Shree Gothen Devi Primary School today. The Nepal Government’s directive of reopening the schools by 2 June did not materialize in the Tipling area since the school managing committees were not able to resettle the classrooms yet. I talked to the principal of Shree Dong Den Devi Secondary School today, and he informed me that teachers from Tarai (the plains) have arrived, but the Government has not given them accommodation or food supplies. They are finding it difficult to continue. The schools do not have alternative rooms or tents to begin again. They are planning to clear the debris and put up shelter soon and announce the school open. Our Jesuit team has started some types of morning classes for the children with the help of some local volunteers.

We are wanting to take some bigger tents for the schools in the Tipling area but we are unable to do so because of the transportation problems. I hear that some bigger tents were taken for the health post a few days ago but the schools did not get any of them. We are waiting for the trail for the mules and the road to Somdang to reopen. Once that happens we will be able to transport some materials quickly. And the people can then carry the materials to the village.

Our team in Sahasa, Dhading Besi, today distributed beaten rice and plastics tents (tarpaulins) to Tipling folk living in Dhading Besi. Most of them have no place to live in now because they used to live in rented rooms which are damaged badly. Our team has also started morning classes for the neighbourhood people. Some notebooks, pencils and pens were bought and given to them.

We await eagerly the trails to open so that we can transport more relief items and materials for temporary shelters to Tipling. Please keep us in your prayers. ♦

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Sunday, 24 May 2015 – Fr Samuel Simick’s adventurous trek from Tipling to Kathmandu through earthquake-ravaged villages in upper Dhading district

I am in Kathmandu today (24 May 2015). I had a chance to get airlifted from Tipling, but I offered my seat to another person. I waited two days for another chance, but in vain. On the evening of the second day I decided to walk down the usual trails. My decision was met with many surprised and worried faces. However, I met a young boy, Avinash, from Lingjo. He had already walked the path twice, once with a load of rice from Lapang Phedi. I was encouraged by the courage of the young boy. He said he knew the new alternative trails people are using.

We left Tipling at 5:30 am. We walked through Chalish village, since the usual path through Serthung to Aavi was destroyed by a landslide very close to Serthung Kani; and the path close to Borang too was destroyed. The alternative trail was buried by a landslide but people had cleared it for walking. The most dangerous landslide of the Ruby Valley Trek was after Borang, close to the Jharlang suspension bridge… Since we had no trails in this zone my young guide helped me to step on the stones which were strong enough to hold the weight.

We walked till Percho for our meal. There was a small place where we could get potato curry and rice. We talked to the lady who was there about the relief work that is going on. According to her no relief had reached them, but they had gone to go a place where there was relief. That was in Jharlang village, maybe a few hours walk! She showed me a Holy Bible, wet and dusty, which had been removed from their church after the 25 April earthquake. The church had collapsed while the service was going on. Luckily only a few were injured. However, the faithful in a bigger church in Jharlang after Percho were not so lucky; there the church collapsed killing seven people and injuring many.

The trek till Dundure was fine. A rock had hit the Dundure Bridge, knocking down a support pillar, but the bridge was still strong in our assessment. After that bridge there was another precarious climb. We had to constantly look up to see if any stone or rock was sliding down. After that, the trek slowly led towards Gansang, where the road has reached. Before Gansang another huge landslide had blocked the trails, but we could run through it. By now we were experts at crossing landslides. Unfortunately the road after Gansang was not repaired well so no vehicles were available at that place. But we were very lucky to get a jeep at Khursanibari, one or two kilometers from Gansang. We had a bumpy, dusty, slow and uncomfortable ride to Dhading Besi. I was happy to reach Dhading Besi by evening, a great achievement!

I realized that my lack of luck (not getting a seat on the helicopter) was a blessing. I could really see the devastation that the quake has caused. Village after village has been reduced to heaps of stones and wood. Some villages do not exist at all. The stories of people killed while working, walking, and praying were hard to keep hearing. Monks were performing rituals for the dead at one spot. My guide showed me another spot where a young girl who went to fetch water was trapped under a big rock and was there for a few hours crying for help till another landslide buried her. A cradle is still kept on the big rock that killed the girl. At another place 7 people were killed. They were building a road. Their bags, cloths, slippers and lunchboxes could be seen lying here and there. My guide explained that when he first walked that trek there were many more items.

I was sad to see that the trekside hotels, where we used to rest and have lunch or take night shelter, were destroyed. Two newly built hydro power plants—one in Borang and another in Lisne Jharlang—were destroyed. Huge cracks could be seen in many places. People fear many landslides this rainy season. We could see fear still in their eyes and uncertainty about future in general.

I had heard that Himalayan Health Care (an NGO) was repairing the trek in various places; however, from Tipling to Gansang I never saw any such work. I hope they will begin soon, before the rainy season starts.

I was planning to help some volunteers reach Tipling, but just now I got a call from Tipling informing me that it has been raining from the morning hours today and the people who were supposed to walk down till Khursani Bari—where jeeps could reach—told Fr. Norbert that they were not willing to risk their lives. Rain means big trouble! My guide and I were lucky to make it on a dry day. ♦

Thursday, 21 May 2015 – Message from the Nepal Jesuit Regional Superior

The 25 April earthquake of 7.8 magnitude and its aftershocks have left Nepal in tatters. As of 18 May, the Ministry of Home Affairs has confirmed a total of 488,789 houses destroyed and 267,477 damaged. The death toll has increased to 8,604 people (4,726 female; 3,834 male; 44 bodies remain unidentified). This includes 148 people who lost their lives during the second earthquake on 12 May. The total number of injured now stands at 16,808.

The Nepal Jesuits responded to the crisis in an apt manner, first of all by opening up their schools and college premises for people looking to put up temporary shelters. Secondly, as part of the emergency relief operations, the Jesuits through their institutions reached out to over 5,000 households, in thirty villages, in nine of the most affected districts, providing the victims with tarps, sleeping mats, dry food, shawls and medical assistance. Our students and alumni have also been very active in helping households clear debris and conducting sanitization programs in different localities. Our college is also collaborating with Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) in running medical camps in the worst hit areas.

As the relief operations wind up, we are looking toward the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases. With this in mind, the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute (NJSI) was set up on 19 May. The Institute has already started to conduct surveys and research to identify villages where our interventions could be most effective. In the long term we plan to adopt a few villages to help them recover and rehabilitate. We hope to work together with them as they rebuild their houses and their lives. We want to be a part of their educational efforts as well.

All this would not have been possible without your generous act of love. Therefore, on behalf of the Nepal Jesuit Society, and the people of Nepal, I express my heartfelt gratitude to you for your contribution to give new life and hope to the people of Nepal as they rebuild their lives. We are very grateful for your generosity and kindness towards this mission of love and compassion.

May God bless you for your generous heart.

Gratefully,
Fr. Boniface Tigga, S.J.
Regional Superior ♦

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 – Inauguration of the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute

Yesterday, 19 May 2015, was a significant day in the history of the Nepal Jesuits. As a response to the devastating earthquake and its consequences, the Jesuits inaugurated the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute (NJSI). Bishop Paul Simick blessed the new Institute and Bishop Emeritus Anthony Sharma SJ offered special prayers.

Mr. Suresh Adhikari (Joint Secretary, General Administration Ministry) was the chief guest. In his address he expressed his wish that NJSI would take a lead role in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation operations in the country. He also requested NJSI to extend its expert service to assist thousands of traumatized school-going children to return to school and continue their studies.

“This is an unusual time – unusual times demand unusual responses,” said Fr George Pattery SJ, Provincial of South Asia. He wished the Institute every success in its ministry. Around hundred people, consisting of priests, sisters, well-wishers and friends attended the function.

NJSI is born out of the Nepal Jesuits’ desire to respond systematically and effectively to the tragedy that rattled the country beginning on 25 April. At present NJSI is outlining a detailed, long-term recovery and rehabilitation program for the victims. Fr. Boby Joseph SJ is the coordinator of NJSI. ♦

Monday, 18 May 2015 – An update from Fr Jomon SJ

Even though no major tremors have occurred in the last two days, fear and anxiety still remain. People in the capital are reluctant to move back to their homes. As more and more news comes from the villages, the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake is becoming clearer. Hundreds of villages have been totally destroyed and thousands have been left homeless. In 14 of the worst affected districts, only a few schools and health centres are standing.

After the first phase of emergency relief operations, the Jesuits are focusing now on recovery and rehabilitation. A group of St. Xavier’s College student volunteers has gone to three districts, namely Lalitpur, Sindhupalchok and Dhading, for village assessments. Their survey will determine the next course of our action. We hope to adopt some villages for long term recovery and rehabilitation. We are also in the process of setting up psychosocial recovery centres in some of the worst affected districts.

In the mean time, St. Xavier’s College, in association with the Catholic Health Association, India (CHAI) medical team, continues to render medical services to quake-affected people. The team went to Semjong, one of the interior villages of Dhading district, directly north of Kathmandu, and set up a four-day medical camp there. Over 300 quake victims came for treatment. ♦

Saturday, 16 June 2015 – A report from Tipling by Fr Samuel Simick SJ

On 16 June, Fr. Norbert went with a group of five people to Hindung, a village in Serthung, to provide medical assistance. It’s a four-hour walk, a rough and dangerous trek.  Since the earthquake, they were the first medical team to reach that place, apart from the first rescue mission by the government.

They stayed overnight in the village. The team could not go on to another village, Neber, close to Hindung, because their medicine supply was insufficient. The trek they took was so dangerous that they decided to take another roundabout trek, via Lingjo, to get back. To their surprise that trek was equally bad and they had to walk three hours more. The team reached home safely.

Relief materials are arriving and are being distributed to the people; however, the distributing committees are not doing their work properly. There is quarrelling about who gets what and how much.

We are trying to start morning and evening classes for the children. Now we need to find a proper place. Our Aama Samaj (Mothers’ Group) is ready to start a BBC (Baal Bikash Centre – Child Play Centre) soon with the help of Buwas (menfolk), who will assist them in putting up a shelter. We are waiting for some good tents and tarpaulins. The day is fixed to go to the forest to collect the poles and wood needed. ♦

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 – The following update is by Fr Samuel Simick SJ, in Tipling, considered typical of many quake-ravaged villages in rural Nepal:

Yesterday’s tremors were more than tremors. They shook the confidence that was slowly building in the people to rebuild and resettle. There are no human casualties reported yet. A few stones from the already broken buildings fell and a few landslides took place; however, they were small. Our network was down for some time, but it was restored. The VSAT network was fine, but the CDMA network that we use was disrupted.

When the first tremor (of the second earthquake) hit, the Jesuits together with the school committees were planning for the next step in rebuilding schools in the VDC. The Education Ministry had asked the committees to reopen the schools by 3 Jesth (i.e., 18 May); however, we were at a loss as to how and where. All four schools in the VDC were completely destroyed by the earthquake. There are no classrooms, no tents, no books, no teachers, no desks and benches, and no help from the Education Ministry. We had suggested the committees call a general meeting of staff, students and parents to discuss a further move regarding schools. This meeting was dispersed because the tremor. We could not finish the meeting since all ran to see if any damage has been caused in their homes or to their kith and kin. We shall wait for another time for the meeting.

A few more details of the village—the earthquake has developed many cracks on the hilltops and the land slopes. People fear heavy landslides during the rainy season, and they need a place where they can settle down for a few months.

Ward No. 1 is the most affected ward: they have no land of their own; they belong to the Dalit group. Their food supplies are very low, and they have no place even to put up makeshift tents for temporary shelter. The government is not able to reach to every person in the VDC.

We still have no electricity supply, though the small hydro-power station seems to be fine. The employees are still trying to manage the transmission lines to the houses. Hopefully we will have the supply of electricity soon. Since there is no electricity, we have problems recharging communication devices. Till now we are lucky to have solar power working and sometimes we need the generator which was safely removed from our fallen house by Fr Norbert and his brave team. The Jesuit Residence has become the centre for phone recharging and communication. The Jesuits’ new property has turned into a helipad and the place for official works, because it is the only open and free place. ♦

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 – Fr Jomon SJ reports on the second earthquake:

There was another earthquake of 7.3 magnitude this afternoon at around 12:55 pm. According to the reports so far, 35 people were killed and over 1,000 were injured due to the fresh quake. At least four people died in Chautara in Sindhupalchok district north of the capital Kathmandu, after several buildings collapsed. The US Geological Survey said that the quake was centred 68 km west of the town of Namche Bazar, close to Mount Everest. It was felt as far away as New Delhi and Dhaka. People in Kathmandu, panic stricken after the 25 April quake, rushed outdoors. Parents could be seen clutching children tightly and hundreds of people were frantically trying to call relatives on their mobile phones. Shopkeepers closed their shops and the streets were jammed with people rushing to check on their families.

The fresh quake has triggered uncertainty and fear in the minds of the people again. Life was just starting to pick up after last month’s quake, which killed over 8,000 people and injured close to 18,000. Educational institutions were supposed to open at the end of this week. People had begun to move back to their houses. But with this fresh tremor, people in the capital were seen erecting makeshift shelters again.

All our people and institutions are safe so far. We await more news. ♦

Monday, 11 May 2015 – This sobering update comes from Fr Samuel Simick SJ in Tipling, Nepal. There is a small Jesuit mission in Tipling, near the border with China; it is a three days’ walk after a four-hour bus ride out of Kathmandu:

It has been 16 days since the devastating earthquake that hit Tipling together with many parts of Nepal. The situation is getting under control. People have accepted their fate and have now started to collect and rebuild their lives and houses. The firsthand data shows that there are 9 wards in this VDC, totaling 547 houses; there are more than 3,229 people affected by this earthquake. Out of 3,229 people 1,179 of them are outside the village, working or studying. There were 9 deaths and 11 injuries; and many animals were killed during the earthquake.

All the people are under makeshift tents because every house is damaged and unfit for staying inside. Not only the houses have been destroyed but also the access trails from Dhading Basi and Shebru Besi have been swept away by the landslides in various places. The only possibility of reaching the village now is by helicopter, or taking the dangerous trek through landslides, and carrying any useful material is almost impossible.

Nine days after the earthquake, Fr Samuel, after many attempts and help from many well-wishers, reached the Mission. Till that time Fr Norbert with the help of a few friends collected data and was able to save many useful things belonging to the community as well as to the people. Fr Norbert went through all the 9 wards to help the victims and collect the data. He went to different villages with our mobile health team to help the injured. Only yesterday, 10 May, a makeshift tent for Tipling Jesuits was set up. There is no chance of staying in the old rented Jesuits Residence. And the priests were busy helping the people in different ways.

The weather is still cold and wet. We have rain almost every evening. The tents could hold for few months at the most—we hope. The rainy season is approaching. It remains till October in this area. Therefore we need some kind of temporary shelter that could withhold heavy rain and hailstones occasionally. Rebuilding of the houses will not be possible once the rainy season starts. Things do not move as smoothly in this area as in other places. We don’t have engineers, builders, labourers, and building materials.

Food supplies are getting low! The shops that used to keep things are empty; the trails that used to carry things by mule are no more. People are trying to get anything that they can. The relief that people are getting is not quite enough. One trip by helicopter—a big one—can carry around 2000 kg of goods. The smaller helicopter can carry only about 400 kg of goods. The government pays for the big helicopter but the smaller ones are for rescue and sometimes privately hired ones, which could cost from 80,000 to 150,000 Nepali Rupees. Some organizations have supplied food items but they could bring it only as far as the vehicles could come. People from the villages have gone to carry the food items the rest of the way. People can carry only a small amount and not all the families can go to bring the food items because they are busy with their own work—repairing the broken houses, looking after the animals, farming, etc.

We need all the assistance that we can get, immediately.

Yours sincerely in Christ Jesus,
Samuel Simick SJ ♦

Thursday, 7 May 2015 – Update on relief work by Fr Jomon SJ

On 5 May, two of St. Xavier’s Jawalakhel teachers along with Fr. Amrit went to Chhap, a village in Kavre district. There were 101 houses but only 1 house stands now with many severe cracks. We distributed beaten rice to 84 families and four tarpaulins to four needy families. It is a mixed village of Tamangs and Thakuris.

Seventy-four student volunteers from St. Xavier’s College went to Dhitalthok and Chogaun. The students were divided into two groups. One group kept themselves busy in cutting bamboos and helping one of the local families to construct a temporary residence. The other team helped people in four houses in Chogaun to clear the debris and recover their buried things. Local resources were used to clear the debris. Local people also joined in the work.

St Xavier’s College collaborated with Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) to organize a Medical Health camp for earthquake victims of Sindhupalchowk district. A team of 11 energetic Social Work students, 10 experienced doctors and nurses, skillful Social Workers and excellent mentors travelled to Lisankhu for a 3-day health camp.

Though no serious injuries or death had taken place in Lisankhu, people were still in fear caused by the continuous tremors. Approximately 600 people visited the health camp with various health-related problems. People walked for hours to reach the health camp as they have no hospitals nearby. The health camp benefitted not only the people of Lisankhu but also the people of neighbouring villages like Bhanjyang, Ramechhap, Kavre and Dolakha.

Dr. Pravin, who had come to Nepal as a tourist, decided to enroll with the team to help the victims of the earthquake.

The health camp mobilized to Thokarpa as well, where an approximately 300 patients visited the camp. Thokarpa, which suffered a greater loss than Lisankhu, lies 12 km away from Lisankhu. Both the villages lack proper health facilities. The health camp provided the villagers with an opportunity to get themselves treated and be counselled.

Fr. Jiju reports from St. Xavier’s Godavari: “20 of us went to Nuwakot district, one of the worst affected districts in terms of damages, on 5May. We were assigned a village named ChaarGhare by the Local Development Officer whose children are in our school. No relief materials had reached the village. The villages was around a one-hour drive on a very treacherous road. Most of the houses were either totally collapsed or damaged. Our team consisted of staff, alumni, parents and two Cluny sisters. We were assigned two wards of the aforementioned village where the population consisted of Dalits, Tamangs and Rais. The entire village had gathered to receive the relief. Local leaders and the village secretary made sure that the relief materials went to each and every family that needed it. Our help reached 300 families in terms tarpaulins, beaten rice, noodle packets and mats. We also left some medicines at the local health post. After the distribution was over we could notice happiness and a sense of gratitude on the faces of the people. We too returned home satisfied realizing the fact that we were able to make a small difference in the lives of our suffering brothers and sisters.” ♦

Tuesday, 5 May 2015 – Effects of the Earthquake on St. Xavier’s Godavari School as reported by the principal, Fr Jiju Kevillil SJ

Since many of our buildings are old, we feared that none of them would survive the devastating tremors. Even though none of the buildings collapsed completely, some of them suffered major damage and cracks when the second earthquake took place on Sunday.

For more than a week, the hostel children, many of our staff and their families, sisters and the Jesuit community slept in tents. Most of them have gone back to their houses now while a few are still residing in tents as the aftershocks are still going on. I continue to sleep in my office which did not suffer much damage.

Two engineers inspected our buildings and gave us their expert opinion. Four of our structures have been marked red which means that we will not able to use them anymore. These include two classrooms, a hostel building and a washroom. Xavier Hall where the Jesuits used to live also suffered major damage and is not habitable anymore. The library and the staffroom need major repairs before they can be used.

Hence the priority for us is to find temporary classrooms to run classes 9 and 10 and get the other buildings repaired. We also need to see how we can run the hostel since all these children are from remote areas of Nepal and on total scholarships. While funding to do the immediate repair and to construct new classrooms is a major concern, our immediate difficulty is in finding skilled labour to do the repair work. Added to that is the scarcity of needed materials. If things work out well, we want to resume our classes within a month. It all depends when and how we can avail the resources both human and material.

Many of our students and a few of our staff have lost or had their houses severely damaged. We are yet to get the statistics with regard to the students whose houses were damaged. Seven of our staff have their houses damaged which need either rebuilding or major repairs. The school would like to offer as much support as possible to them.

In the meantime, relief work continues through XAG, our alumni organization. A large number of our students are proving themselves to be men and women for others at this time of need, forgetting their own sorrows. Besides reaching out to the victims with materials, they are also into rebuilding houses, sanitization activities and helping the victims to remove whatever is left in the collapsed houses. They have been focusing on Harishidhi and Bishankunarayan villages which are nearby the school. They also plan to extend their support to remote villages as soon as materials arrive.

While a total recovery will take years, we hope that life can pick up soon enough. We continue to hope and believe at this time of crisis humanity will come out victorious once again. ♦

Tuesday, 5 May 2015 – The latest update from the Information Desk of the Nepal Jesuits Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Response Committee:

Even as the government has intensified its relief efforts, many interior villages are still cut off from any contact. Tipling, one of villages most severely affected by the quake, was able to receive some help only today through the Nepal Jesuit Society. Fr Samuel SJ arranged a helicopter with the Indian Army and took relief materials there. Almost all of the 500 or so houses in the village are fully or partially destroyed by the quake. The house where the Jesuits were staying has also collapsed. Five deaths were reported in the village. The Jesuit fathers are safe and are actively involved in helping out the people who are traumatized and are living under tarpaulin sheets. We have a sizeable Catholic community there. Tipling is in Dhading district.

The Nepal Jesuit Society, with volunteers from its schools, college and social service centres, continues to reach out to many villages with relief materials. On 3 May the student volunteers from St Xavier’s College, took relief materials to 120 families in Gorkha district, around 140 km northwest of Kathmandu. The name of the village is Bhachek. It is a rural village approximately 65 km away from Gorkha district headquarters and it lies just opposite to Barpakh, the epicentre of the earthquake. The entire village of 1,400 houses is completely flattened. The relief materials included beaten rice, instant noodles, dry snacks, soap, detergent, sanitary pads, water purifier, masks and gloves.

On behalf of the Nepal Jesuit Society, Fr Amrit Rai, Principal of St. Xavier’s School, Jawalakhel, distributed relief materials to 200 families in Kalika village in Sindhupalchok. It is a village with a high number of Paree and Majhi people (marginalized groups). They are badly affected by the quake.

On the same day Fr Dilip Toppo organized a group of his staff members and through them sent relief materials to Kafalchaur of Dhading district. A medical team of Sisters also went with them. About 80 patients were given medical aid. Here too the houses were totally destroyed.

On Monday, 4 May, the same team went to Gerkhutar in Nuwakot district. The community belongs to Mizars, one of the Dalit communities of Nepal. There were 20 families gathered to receive the aid. Their houses are flattened to the ground. All of the 22 families there were given tarpaulin sheets, shawls and dry food. Thirty persons were given medical aid after a checkup. No deaths were reported in the community .

In the country, the death toll has now passed 7,500 and it is climbing as bodies are still being recovered from collapsed buildings and houses. ♦

Saturday, 2 May 2015 – An update by Fr Jomon SJ in Kathmandu:

As of the sixth day of the search and rescue operation completed yesterday, 6, 621 people have been found dead. In the capital, dead bodies are still being recovered from under the rubble and debris of the collapsed buildings.

More than 300,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed, as per data collected by the home ministry until Friday. Many people in Kathmandu are moving back to their houses. People say they are feeling safe now since no major quakes have been felt in the past three days. However, thousands of others whose houses are badly damaged are still living in tents, vehicles and even under the open sky.

In the meantime our efforts to reach out to the victims continue. Following is a short report from two of our institutions.

Report from St. Xavier’s College:

A group of 8th semester students headed to Dahachok with relief aid, food, shawls, medical kits and tents and served more than 210 families. This was an initiative of students under a joint venture of Nepal Jesuits and Janaki Technologies.

Another team of students and alumni went to Goldhunga—an inner village in Khumaltar and helped local people to clear debris and mud and to rescue their belongings.

A group of BA students searched for relief materials: tents, blankets and mats, and they interacted with Leo Club and Red Cross. They helped in cleaning the debris at Basantapur. Some students have also been working in collaboration with Operation Relief at Bhrikuti Mandap.

Likewise, a team of 17 BSW students have gone to Sindhupalchok with the medical team from Catholic Health Association, India (CHAI). They will conduct health camps in a village called Thulo Dhading for 15 days. The village has suffered massive losses with 95% of the houses destroyed and two schools in ruins.

Report from St. Xavier’s School, Jawalakhel:

Fr Amrit along with two staff members went to Jyamdi village in Kavre district and distributed 40 sacks of beaten rice. No relief materials had reached there till yesterday. At that place 79 houses were destroyed. They need food and tarpaulins. We ran short of tarpaulins. We hope to get more from India in the coming days. ♦

Friday, 1 May 2015 – This latest update from Nepal was written by Fr Jomon SJ, who is on the Information Desk for the Jesuit earthquake response team in Nepal:

At the time of this writing, the number of people who died in the quake has reached 6,200. The number of injured exceeds 13,500.

The first phase of the relief work still continues. The Jesuits with the help of its institutions is reaching out to many more remote villages. The alumni and staff of St. Xavier’s School Godavari under the leadership of Fr. Jiju, the principal, went to the upper part of Lamatar, Kavre district, and distributed some relief materials (including tripals, noodles, beaten rice, and sleeping mats) to the most needy villagers. They also went to Kaleshwor and Gotikhel in Lalitpur district, 45 km south of Kathmandu and distributed relief materials to the villagers there. About 500 households benefitted.

Fr. Amrit Rai and Fr. Mathew Assarikudy, along with the staff of St. Xavier’s School Jawalakhel, went to remote villages in Nuakot district northwest of Kathmandu. They distributed tents to 65 Dalit families. They also visited a village called Kaalikhetan where they distributed tents to 30 households. In another village called Besi Katteri, out of 68 houses only five houses were standing. They distributed tents to the affected villagers there too. All these people belonged to a low caste (actually outside the caste) and had not been given any relief so far from anyone. These places are about 100 km away from Kathmandu.

Fr. Dilip along with his Social Service Centre staff visited a place called Ghoushal in Lalitpur district and distributed tents there. The people there were very frustrated and angry at the lack of response from either government or non-governmental organizations.

We have also dispatched dry food items to Okhaldunga, another place about 100 km away from Kathmandu. No relief materials had reached there due its inaccessibility. We had men carry the materials to their villages from the nearest bus stop.

Another place we reached out to was Baniatar which is situated just on the outskirts of Kathmandu city. We have a small Christian community there. Most of the houses were either partially or fully destroyed. We distributed tents and dry food there.

In the meantime, our student volunteers are working throughout the day giving sanitation awareness to people who live in tents both in and outside Kathmandu. Wherever they go, they distribute water purifying capsules, soaps and sanitary materials. Many student volunteers are also involved in cleaning the camp area with disinfectants. Clearing the piles of rubbles from collapsed buildings is another task our students are engaged in.

In all the villages that we visited, few houses are habitable. People are living out in the open. The most basic need in these places are tents which we are running short of. No tents (tarpaulin sheets) are available in the country and bringing them from India takes time. Unseasonal rains have made the living conditions miserable. In many places, villagers are running out of stored food items and drinking water.

We continue to count on your prayers and support. ♦

Thursday, 30 April 2015 – This update from Jesuits in Nepal indicates a significant and encouraging mobilization of resources:

The number of people who have died in the quake has surpassed the 5,000 mark with twice as many people injured. As of Wednesday (29 April) night 5,020 bodies had been recovered from different parts of the country while the number of injured stands at 10,227.

Nepal Jesuits, through their institutions have reached out to many more villages. Relief materials (tents, mats, dry food, and sanitation materials) were distributed to almost 500 families in Devpur – VDC in Kavre district, 40 km east of Kathmandu. A team of Jesuits and volunteers have gone to Kaleshwor, a remote village in Lalitpur district, south of Kathmandu. Another team of Jesuits and volunteers have gone to Nuwakot district, northwest of Kathmandu, to distribute relief materials there.

In the meantime St. Xavier’s college students and alumni have organized themselves into different volunteer groups to help in the relief work. The college Social Work students have identified Sindupalchowk district, one of the worst-hit districts, as their work area. They are collaborating with Catholic Health Association of Inda (CHAI) in providing medical aid to the victims.

The BA students have identified a place called Sankhu as their work area. The volunteers there are focusing more on providing health awareness to the affected villagers.

The BIM and BSc IT volunteers are helping out in the sanitation program in a village called Pharping, 25 km south of Kathmandu. ♦

Tuesday, 29 April 2015 – Today Jesuits in Nepal gave the following update about their response to the earthquake:

  • They are finishing “needs  assessments” in the 5 districts mentioned in the report: Lalitpur, Sindhupulchowk, Kavre, Dhading, and Gorkh
  • They have helped 150 families in villages in these district with tents, foods items and mats
  • In the two Jesuits schools they have received around 200 families and they are supporting them with foods, tents and mats
  • There are 50 Jesuits working in the region with the collaboration of college students (around 1,000)
  • They are collaborating with other Catholic organizations (e.g., Salesians)
  • Next week they are going to widen this Catholic collaboration to include Caritas
  • In the long term, they hope to assist with housing
  • For now they don’t need volunteers from other countries

So far the Xavier Network has transferred 50,000 Euros for emergency help to a newly established account in Kathmandu. It is called the Nepal Jesuits Earthquake Relief Fund.

At the present moment the following organizations of Xavier Network have joined in addressing the emergency:

  • Jesuitenmission – Austria
  • Missieprocuur – Belgium
  • Jesuit Missions – Britain
  • Canadian Jesuits International – Canada
  • Jesuitenmission – Germany
  • MAGIS – Italy
  • Gonçalo da Silveira – Portugal
  • Alboan – Spain
  • Entreculturas  – Spain
  • Jesuitenmission  – Switzerland. ♦

 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015 – The core team of Jesuits and collaborators in Nepal met today to plan their relief operation. Here is part of their report:

We have selected/identified five districts for assistance: Lalitpur, Sindhupulchowk, Kavre, Dhading, and Gorkha. We still need do some assessment and identify the villages most affected. We have received permission from three district authorities to carry on the relief work already begun. We will follow it up tomorrow for other two districts.

We have ordered materials such as tents, mats, and food items. Definitely, we need more financial help when it comes to the rehabilitation phase.

We have been coordinating and networking with various agencies and religious groups as well. We have enough volunteers for the next few days. We hope to begin the rehabilitation plans after doing some assessment.

We could not open a bank account because all the banks are closed. Our sources indicate the banks will open tomorrow.

We still need to organize ourselves to carry out the relief work more efficiently and effectively. We hope to update everyday about the progress of the relief operation.

Please do join us in whatever way possible and let do whatever we can. Jesuits and others from India are willing to help us as per the need.

The prayerful support, and material assistance of our brother Jesuits and their colleagues, the wider church, and of the general public, will be of enormous help to us as we provide aid to those in immediate dire need, and begin to help Nepal recover from the devastating impact of the earthquake.

Thanking you for your continued support and prayers for the earthquake victims.

Thanks for your prayers,
Fr. Boniface Tigga, SJ
Regional Superior, Nepal Region ♦

Monday, 27 April 2015 The following report comes from Fr Boniface Tigga SJ, Superior of the Nepal Region:

On Saturday, a few minutes before noon, a massive earthquake struck Nepal. The epicentre of the quake, which registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale, was approximately halfway between Kathmandu and the town of Pokhara in central Nepal. Deaths and destruction have been reported from as far away as Tibet, Bangladesh, north India and Bhutan, but the major damage has been here in Nepal. Thirty-nine of Nepal’s 75 districts have been seriously affected and more than 3,000 deaths and 6,000 serious injuries have been tabulated.

The total number of casualties is sure to be much higher. Nepal’s underdeveloped communications system, and lack of government coordination, is such that many deaths will never be reported. On Sunday, at about 1:00 pm an after-shock registering 6.6 shook the country again. Significant tremors occurred again at 4.20 am this morning, Monday.

Although the government has intensified the rescue efforts in and around Kathmandu, lack of equipment and accessibility have made the rescue operations slow. Hundreds of people are feared to be still trapped inside the rubble and debris of the collapsed buildings in the capital. Many historical buildings have been reduced to dust. Reports received so far suggest that many villages perched on mountainsides are devastated or struggling to cope.

The earthquake has spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. At least 18 people died there and 61 were injured.

In the capital, the government has announced free treatment to the victims. But the hospitals are overcrowded and many are not in a position to offer treatment. The people are still in shock as the aftershocks continue. Most of the people are staying out in the open places as they fear to go back to their partially damaged houses.

The main highways in and out of Kathmandu are blocked due to the landslides caused by the earthquake. This has hindered rescue teams that tried to use mountain trails to reach those in need.

At the moment the help is being rendered rather in a random manner than an organized one. The local communities and all those who are not affected by the quake are involved in rescue operations. Nepal Jesuit Society has responded quickly to this terrible tragedy. St. Xavier’s College has reached out to two remote villages in Dhading district providing the villagers with tarpaulin sheets to sleep under and basic food material. There is another relief material distribution under way in Kavre district. Many roads are blocked and so it is hard to reach by road in many places. We hope to reach out to some more villages where relief work has not been done so far. For this we count on your help and prayers.

The media has broadcast dramatic images of the massive destruction to the Kathmandu Valley’s temples and religious monuments. It is true that a number of historic sites have been reduced to piles of rubble, along with many of the city’s traditional brick and tile homes. A large neighbourhood near the Swayambhunath stupa has been wiped out, and the bridge connecting them to the city centre has collapsed.

The damage to more recently-built reinforced concrete structures, though less obvious, is also significant. Consequently, many people are terrified of sleeping in their homes and have erected tents and make-shift shelters in open areas for the past two nights. Throughout the night one can see people simply walking the streets, or huddled under blankets by the side of the road, for lack of shelter. Unseasonal rain has sent night-time temperatures plummeting, adding to the misery of those displaced.

Much media attention has been given to the avalanches at Everest base camp because well-equipped foreigners are able to send news via social media; but it is the rural poor in districts around the epicentre who are suffering more profoundly. The destruction of homes in outlying villages has been even more catastrophic than those places appearing in the news.

Schools were declared closed for five days; and most shops, businesses and offices have not re-opened. It is unclear how badly the food supply chain to Kathmandu has been disrupted. Prices for vegetable and staples have already sky-rocketed. Phone service and electricity in the heart of Kathmandu Valley have gradually become more available, after a complete cut-off on Saturday. The service is very intermittent. Fortunately, the 3G/broadband internet in the capital area has remained open since the quake, allowing some communication to the outside world via the internet.

One great concern now is water supply and food. As stored food and water supplies diminish, suffering will increase. In addition to providing medical care to those who were severely injured, medical teams are concerned about the possible outbreak of diseases, especially cholera, because of damage to the water supply system.

Kathmandu’s small airport is strained to the limit as planes carrying emergency supplies and relief workers arrive. Meanwhile many commercial flights continue to operate in order to evacuate large numbers of tourists and trekkers. Local and international search-and-rescue teams continue to dig through the remains of collapsed houses, both here in Kathmandu, and in rural areas, hoping to find survivors before the ominous 72-hour mark passes. At this writing, they have less than 20 hours before that deadline.

Once the immediate rescue operations are completed, and emergency first aid is provided for the most seriously injured, major recovery efforts will continue for those who have been made homeless, been disabled, or lost their livestock and other means of livelihood. It is critical that those in heavily affected villages, and not subject to the media spotlight, be helped.

The Jesuits of Nepal, along with other religious communities and the Vicariate of Nepal, are fortunate in that we suffered no loss of life or serious injury. There has been some damage to buildings at our institutions. When the risk of after-shocks has passed we will assess the situation more closely, in order to assure the safety of those we teach and serve.

St. Xavier’s schools and college and St. Mary’s school have opened its compound for anyone who wants shelter.

The prayerful support, and material assistance of our brother Jesuits and their colleagues, the wider church, and of the general public, will be of enormous help to us as we provide aid to those in immediate dire need, and begin to help Nepal recover from the devastating impact of the earthquake.

Our core team meets tomorrow morning at 8 am to plan out the mechanism with email ID/Phone to carry out the work and then I will send you the other details. Definitely, we need more financial help when it comes to the rehabilitation phase. We hope to select a few areas that are most affected.

Thanks for your prayers,

Fr Boniface Tigga SJ
Regional Superior, Nepal Region