DISASTER RESPONSE

6th May, 2015. At 2:13pm on 15January 1934 Nepal was rocked by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that killed over 8,500 people and destroyed thousands of homes. At the time 20 year old Kaman Sing Jhapa Magar was preparing to celebrate the festival of Magagsenskrati with his family. Now – 80 years later – Kaman is reliving the nightmare for a second time.


85 year old GauriKumariRana – the second oldest resident of Paslang – sits outside her destroyed house. CARE/Ruhani Kaur

In the small and remote village of Paslang, Kaman is preparing to celebrate his 100th birthday. He is the oldest resident of the village, and the only one who still remembers the last earthquake firsthand. The only other resident alive at the time –GauriKumariRana – was just five years old and only remembers the event from stories told her by her father.


99 year old Kaman Sing Jhapa Magar squats on the ground outside his home in Paslang. He was sleeping outside when the earthquake hit. CARE/Lucy Beck

A heart-breaking figure,Kaman squats outside his decimated house, gazing into the distance through rheumy, partially blind, eyes.Clutching an old wooden cane he chews laboriously on a piece of tobacco, occasionally shouting out to his daughter Kanchi to help him shift position.

When the earthquake hit this around time Kaman was sleeping outside; “when it happened I tried to stand up and run but I couldn’t move so I had to stay where I was,” he says. His daughter and great-granddaughters were inside the house but luckily they managed to run out onto a nearby playing field before the house began collapsing.


Kaman Sing Jhapa Magar’s granddaughter in law DaalChini Ale Magar [holding baby] unpacks the CARE relief package outside her home. CARE/Ruhani Kaur

The house he shares with his daughter, granddaughter and great grandchildren is now uninhabitable so Kaman is forced to sleep outside under a basic tarpaulin and on a hard wooden platform. During the day he moves between the tent and grass, unable to settle anywhere for too long– finding the tent too hot and squatting outside for too long, too tiring. Night time is no better, with cold temperatures up in the mountains and intermittent rain. “It’s a struggle sleeping outside. We are facing many kinds of struggle. The bed is too small and we don’t have enough clothes so it is cold at night,” says Kaman.

Kaman’s family received relief items from CARE including blankets, which granddaughter-in-law DaalChini Ale Magarsays  is the most important item in the package. Now he worries about the process of rebuilding their home from scratch, a process which he will only be able to watch, and has no idea when he will be able to sleep in a proper house again.

For most people in the village shelter is their number one concern – tarpaulins and tents for the time being so they are not exposed to the cold mountain nights and then help with the long and difficult task of rebuilding homes and regaining livelihoods.


85 year old GauriKumariRana, his 54 year old daughter Kanchi Ale Magar and great granddaughter9 month old Reshika Ale sit outside their home in Paslang.Kachi helps take care of her elderly and disabled father. CARE/Lucy Beck

Kaman knows no other life than his one in Paslang and has nowhere else to go. He was born in the village and has spent the entirety of his life there (except for a brief16 month stint with the British Army). He has seen births, deaths and changes to the political regimes. According to him; in a century the village has hardly changed at all. That is until now. As a result of the earthquake, around 80 per cent of the village has been destroyed and an entirely new one will have to rise in its place.

 

 

By,
Lucy Beck in Gorkha, Nepal

Posted By : Lucy Beck