Print Edition - 2015-05-25  |  Earthquake Relief

The voice that soothed many

The voice that soothed many

May 24, 2015-

In the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake, Radio Nepal, the oldest radio station in the country, played a commendable role in constantly updating the people about the devastation wrought by the quake and its aftershocks. Komal Oli, senior news chief and a popular radio jockey at the station, spent three days in the studio, airing live updates from throughout the country. Post-quake, she is also involved in providing psychological counseling to children and carrying out relief works in different districts. Anup Ojha of the Post caught up with this charismatic media personality to talk about her experience.        

Where were you when the April 25 quake occurred? How did you respond to it?

I was invited to a programme organised by Terhathum Sarokar Samaj that day. I was in Sanepa, on my way to put fuel in my car. All of sudden, I felt like my car was being hit by another vehicle.  It started to rock to and fro, and then I realised that it was an earthquake. Promptly, I got off from the car and ran towards a safe place. Once the quake stopped, I rushed towards my home. The house was fine and all my family members were safe. Finally, after knowing that everyone was fine, I took a long breath and then started to think what to do next.

What was that?

I thought of going to Radio Nepal’s office in Singhadurbar. Earlier, I used to reach there at around 5 pm for the 7 pm news.  On that day I reached there at 3:30 pm. It took me an hour to reach there, as the road was full of people and vehicles.

I knew that the office building had been constructed by Japanese engineers some years ago and was capable of sustaining powerful shocks.  At 4:30 pm I got into the studio and started receiving live updates about the disaster from our staff reporters and people all over the country via phone calls. This went on till 7 am in the morning. I don’t even have an account how many calls I picked up that night. This went on for two more days.

How did that strength come? What was the most difficult part of carrying out live updates nonstop for hours on end? Any remarkable incident you want to share with us?

To be honest, I don’t know how that strength came in me. I guess I was too obsessed with my responsibility to inform the people who were gripped by fear. From this incident I am very confident that human beings are capable of doing anything when needed.   In other times, I would feel bored running a programme for even an hour, but during those nights boredom never occurred to me.

On the second day of the great quake, I got a call from a nine-year-old girl named Nisha from Sindupalchwok. She told me that her house had been badly damaged by the temblors, and that she and her parents were living out in the open, without anything to eat. I was numb! Also, many people would talk of their homes and villages being turned into rubble. And they would say that my voice was giving them strength to live.  

Being a media person yourself, how would you define the role of media in times of crisis? How do you see your contribution during the time of disaster?

Our media houses were not well-prepared to handle such a massive disaster. But, nonetheless, journalists put their lives on the line to inform people about the disaster. Many reporters were reporting from badly-affected areas, risking their lives in the process; and programme presenters on radio stations and television channels were there doing their duty despite such an ordeal. I think that Nepali journalists did a fabulous job this time around.

It’s not me to evaluate my work, though. But nowadays, wherever I go, people thank me for my updates during the difficult times. They say that my voice made them feel secure, and gave them hope. Many of them even know the phone number of our station by heart. I have been getting positive responses from the audience all over the country.

We are inching to normalcy now, and you must be busy with relief and rehabilitation works? Can you tell us something about it?   

Yes, I have been visiting quake-affected districts distributing relief materials with my team.  Besides that my focuses is to provide music therapy and psychological counseling to children aged six to thirteen. I am also looking forward to go to places like Sankhu and Sindupalchwok, among others.  

What has been the impact of therapies and counseling on children?

I have been using music and dance as a tool to heal traumatised children. Children, especially those between 6 and 13 years of age, are more susceptible to the adverse psychological effects of such disasters.  But if counseling is provided on time, they can recover very soon. The faster we can make them forget about this incident, the better it is for them.

My focus has been to make them forget the terror inflected by the quake. I try to ridicule earthquake and make them sing and dance together. And it’s working! I have seen them become happier and more interactive after the programme.

What do you think do people need next?

Apart food and shelter, people also need to be mentally sound to live a normal life. And although food and tents have started reaching even the most-affected districts, I think most of the people are still traumatised and shaken by the incident. So we need to provide them with proper counseling to heal their psychological wounds and instill confidence in them.

Also, I think that while volunteers, NGOs and INGOs are working really hard in providing relief to the people and rehabilitating them, the government has fallen behind. So the government should try to do its best to help the victims of the disaster.

 

Published: 25-05-2015 07:11

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