Belgians help quake survivors

- GAURAV THAPA, Kathmandu
Belgians help quake survivors

Jun 21, 2015-

When a Belgian couple hiked to Haku VDC of Rasuwa district with relief materials six weeks after the Great Earthquake, they were overwhelmed by the crowd that came to greet them.

Locals, overcome with joy for seeing the first people arriving for help after the quake, surrounded Betty and Armand Moureaux trying to dig through whatever supplies they had carried. None of the houses were standing and people were surviving on whatever they could salvage from beneath the rubble.

“Locals had nearly lost all hopes as they had not seen any organisation or government official before we reached there,” Armand said. “They were glad to know that at least they were not completely forgotten.”

Earlier, the couple had learnt that a helicopter had dropped some tarpaulins and cooking gears in the village but nothing else had arrived. They had taken along 1.5 tonnes of rice and medical supplies for distribution. Betty, who is also a professional nurse, said she checked up some 80 people during her stay there and found that most locals were suffering from diarrhoea, skin and eye problems and mental trauma. The couple said they also helped set up a temporary learning centre in the village.

Some 3,200 families, mostly from the Tamang communities, were residing in Haku before the earthquake. As the quake destroyed almost all houses, only about 800 people remain. “They have stayed back because of their cattle,” Betty observed. “There are some 10,000 cattle in the village.” All nine settlements in Haku VDC, which is six kilometres from Dhunche, wear a deserted look. Whatever remains is threatened to be swept away by landslides during rains. According to the couple, the displaced people are currently staying at Dhunche, Kalikasthan, Betrawati and near Shanti Bazaar in the district and at Kirtipur, Lolang, Chisapani and Swoyambhunath in the Kathmandu valley.

“The worst problem is that relief agencies have stuck close to motorable roads while remote VDCs like Haku are left behind,” Armand said. “For some reason, the Chief District Officer does not give official permission even to those who are willing to go.”

CDO Shivaram Gelal refuted the claims, however. “Our team has reached every place in the district with relief,” he said over the phone. “We have not left Haku behind in the distribution of relief materials, including zinc sheets.”

Nevertheless, the Belgian couple called for immediate attention to the plight of the village. “The villagers have no seeds and could not plant any crop this season. Their current stock won’t even last the monsoon,” Armand said, adding that they are also collecting money back in Belgium to help rebuild and resettle the survivors after the rainy season.

Published: 22-06-2015 08:10

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