Saturday 16 November 2019

Nepal earthquake: Crushing blow to a region that's already reeling from a total catastrophe

The devastation wreaked by the second quake in Nepal
The devastation wreaked by the second quake in Nepal

Mark Trevelyan in Kathmandu

Seventeen people were killed in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the home ministry said in a statement, and Chinese media reported one person died in Tibet after rocks fell on a car.

Indian and US military aircraft flew more than 60 wounded people to Kathmandu from affected areas.

Nepal had barely begun to recover from the devastation caused by last month's earthquake, the country's worst in more than 80 years, which killed at least 8,046 people and injured more than 17,800.

Hundreds of thousands of buildings, including ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, were destroyed and many more damaged.

Some foreign rescue teams have returned home from Nepal, but may need to be pressed into service again.

At a welcoming ceremony for an Israeli military rescue delegation yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I know that you are already prepared for the next mission, anywhere it might be required. And to judge by the news, it is possible that such a mission now faces us."

Steve Collins has lived in Kathmandu for three years. He works for the aid agency Tearfund and was at the agency's offices when the earthquake struck.

"Everything suddenly started shaking. It wasn't too severe at first and we all managed to get out of the building, then when we were in the yard outside everything started shaking very strongly and we were all bending down on the ground to stop from falling over, and keeping as far away from the walls as possible. I cycled to find my wife and children and there were trees down in the road and some walls, but it's difficult to tell because lots of walls are already down. What was really noticeable was everyone was out in the street and everyone was clearly very shaken.

"There is a lot of fear and nervousness on the street and people gather in the safety of open space. They stood in the street in Kathmandu to avoid possible collapsing buildings.

"The earthquake felt like it carried on for a long while and even when it died down the earth was shaking under our feet, like standing in a boat. It probably lasted about a minute, and there were quite a lot of aftershocks.

"We're all outside at the moment. It's very difficult to know what to do. This has definitely added to the sense of fear and uncertainty."

Wojtek Wilk, CEO of the Polish Centre for International Aid, said the new quake presented a funding challenge. Last week, World Food Programme head Ertharin Cousin said that the scale and number of global humanitarian crises was straining donors.

The earthquake is a further blow to the country's economy. Tourism, trekking and mountaineering are major foreign currency earners, and have been largely wiped out for the rest of the season.

Much of the industry's infrastructure, including trails and mountain homestays, has been destroyed.

Adrian Hayes, a former British army officer said that Thamel, the tourist and backbacker area of Kathmandu, was "deserted like a ghost town".

Irish Independent

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