3 days on, earthquake survivors in Rukum West are without food, shelter and hope

People in Rukum West spend the night in the cold as they wait for government aid. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Rukum (West), November 6

Sheru Malla of Jamirkot in Aathbiskot Municipality was alone when the 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck on Friday night. As the earth shook vigorously, he jumped out of his window saving himself.

“I had kept the door open, that helped me jump out. That saved my life,” he says.

He feels lucky to have been there alone. His wife, who is ill is currently in Kathmandu along with this mother and son.

“I don’t know what would have happened if all of us were home,” he says.

Three days have passed since the earthquake. Three days have passed since he has been living without a proper roof over his head. With his house destroyed in the earthquake, he is currently in a field, awaiting aid as his rations are slowly running out.

It has been three days since the earthquake destroyed his house. He has been in the field ever since. Reflecting on the destruction, he says, “When the house was destroyed, nothing remained.” Currently, he is sitting in the field with some remaining ration and water.

The temperatures are night drop to single digits. With nowhere to go, he is depending on aid to arrive so he has a roof over his head.

“I’m running out of food too, it would be great if the government brought some food,” he says. “If not, I will have nothing to eat soon.”

Rukum West
A man in Rukum West cooks food out in the field. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Gothe Mahatara, 52, also lost two houses in the earthquake. Mahatara along with his family is also spending the night in the field. To ensure they have a roof to protect them from the dew, Mahatara has made a makeshift tent using old sacks. This is where Mahatara, his wife and two sons spend the night.

“I hear the government will provide relief but when? It’s been three days yet all of us here are helpless,” he says. “We don’t even have tarpaulins. How do they expect us to spend the night in the cold?”

Jamirkot is one of the hardest-hit villages in Rukum West. Friday’s earthquake destroyed all the houses in the area. In addition to the loss of nine lives, including four children, the earthquake also destroyed health posts and school buildings.

Out in the open

A mother feeding her child in a makeshift shelter in Rukum West. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

There are around 100 houses in Dadagaon in Aathbiskot Municipality. While the earthquake did not result in significant human casualties, it caused extensive damage to numerous houses. According to the locals, 75 per cent of the houses in this village have been destroyed, while the remaining 25 per cent are in a state of disrepair and uninhabitable.

“The whole village is outside. We have nowhere to go. The only way we keep warm is by lighting a fire all night,” says Dhan Bahadur Gharti.

While people like Dhan Bahadur saved themselves from the earthquake, they face another challenge now – cold.

Sukhad Gharti Magar is worried as his three children complain about the cold. With the ration finished, he has been feeding them noodles and biscuits.

“How long can we live like this,” he says.

The earthquake in Rukum West left 2,136 houses completely damaged. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Like others, he too is counting on the government for help. But with no aid arriving three days after the earthquake, he is worried and is thinking about arranging it through other means.

“Where is the relief? How long does it take? Do they not know how desperate we are,” he says, clearly angry and frustrated.

The earthquake in Rukum West left 2,136 houses completely damaged. According to the data from the District Police Office Rukum West, there were 2,642 houses with partial damage and 4,670 with general damage.

As a result of the earthquake, 52 people lost their lives in the district, while 309 sustained injuries. Of the injured, 27 individuals have been transferred to Surkhet, Nepalgunj, and Kathmandu for additional treatment, and 174 have been discharged. Presently, 26 people are receiving treatment in various hospitals within the district.

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Budhathoki is a journalist, based in Dang.

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Dhimal is a photojournalist at Onlinekhabar.

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