By Angshuman Gogoi
A UNH student was at ground zero when Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale on April 25. It was a national crisis in which 9000 people were killed, the infrastructure of the economy was crippled and there was immense human suffering. Undoubtedly, one can imagine the trauma of the local populace that had not experienced something of this scale in the recent past. Freshman Ashnav Lal, was there during the crisis.
Lal himself will be speaking about the first hand experiences in the Cultural Connections initiative of the Office of International Scholars and Students (OISS) at UNH on Friday Dec. 4 at the MUB entertainment center.
Lal was at his home when the powerful earthquake had hit and recalls the immediate responses and trauma of his family and neighbors.
“I didn’t know what was happening but then suddenly everything started shaking in the house. The crystal light that was hanging on the ceiling fell down and broke into pieces. It was like the whole house was moving. Even the staircase was moving but luckily, we managed to go out of the house safely,” Lal said.
There was panic all around. He recalls there were major damages to the walls of his house that had developed major cracks. It was a common sight to see cracked and split open roads immediately after the first hit. The Nepal Army and the local UN team were swift in their response to this tragedy. Lal recalls the army being immediately deployed to assist for the supply of food, medicines and other necessities to the people. Trapped people were being rescued out of collapsed buildings as the aftershocks continued for some time.
“People were skeptical to sleep inside their houses post the earthquake and my family too slept in the garage for the first three days,” he said.
Hospitals were working full time to provide aid to the injured but the infrastructure was not ready to handle crises at this scale, so many people had to wait for care.
After this major earthquake, efforts are being dedicated to rebuild the country. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s resilience program expanded to nine districts in the earthquake zone and has already supported 600 hard-hit families through cash-for-work infrastructure development activities in five districts. Nearly 300 masons trained on building earthquake-resistant shelters in four districts to help people get back into their homes and reduce the risk of similar damage in future disasters.
Likewise, USAID is helping to provide health care access, water, sanitation and hygiene services to people in the rural earthquake affected areas. Although the UN and its partners are currently helping to ensure timely delivery of food and shelter supplies to the isolated communities, the reconstruction work of earthquake devastated Nepal still remains hampered and people are still living in temporary shelters as political wrangling has prevented the disbursement of billions of dollars pledged by international donors for reconstruction.