Rukum West earthquake survivors endure cold and hunger, await relief

Rukum West Earthquake
A woman cries as she recalls how the earthquake demolished her home. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Friday night’s earthquake changed the lives of the residents of Chhepare village in Aathbiskot Municipality forever.

The earthquake took the lives of 11 people in this village. Those who survived sustained serious injuries and are now grappling with the challenge of rebuilding their lives.

Most of the houses in this area have been reduced to rubble by the earthquake. According to the locals, there are 40 households in this village. Some of them are now left homeless, and the remaining houses have sustained significant structural damage, rendering them uninhabitable.

A house destroyed by the earthquake.

Gosmati Pun of Chhepari village is in shock. She does not want to dwell on the night which has changed her life forever. Her house has been entirely reduced to rubble. No one died, but Pun along with her husband and son do not know what they are going to do with their lives.

“We were stuck for nearly an hour. I thought we were going to die but we were rescued by the people from the village. I will never forget this night,” says Pun.

They did not go unscathed as all three sustained minor injuries.

“Our body is full of bruises. I don’t know what happened. Everything happened so fast. I don’t know what to do,” she says.

Livelihood lost

People spent the night without a roof over their heads as they wait relief materials to build temporary shelters following Friday’s earthquake. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Pun has lost her home as have many people in Chhepare village. What has added to their sorrow is having to spend the nights on an empty stomach. In addition, a large number of villagers are grieving the loss of family members due to the earthquake. Meanwhile, a handful are praying to see their loved ones return safely from the hospitals.

“We had to sleep without food. Everything is chaotic here. No relief material has come to us. How long are we going to have to stay like this,” she says.

Locals cooking food out in the open.

As the days grow colder, the residents of Chhepare village face yet another challenge: the dropping temperatures. And with no roof over their heads, spending the night was a major challenge to many.

Nirmala Sharma, a 25-year-old resident of Chhepare village, was asleep at home with her two children when the house suddenly collapsed. Within half an hour of the earthquake, two neighbours rushed to their aid and managed to rescue them from the wreckage.

“It was traumatic. The earthquake destroyed our home while we were in it. I was desperate to save my son and daughter. I’m glad I could save them,” she says with tears in her eyes as she holds on to her 11-year-old daughter and five-year-old son.

Need aid fast

A man gathers wood to light a fire to stay warm in Chhepare village following the earthquake. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Following the demolition of their house, she, like many others in the village, endured a chilly night under the open sky with her hungry children.

After their houses were destroyed, their food supplies were also buried beneath the rubble. Tika Jaisi, whose home suffered the same fate, says that there is hardly anyone left in the village after the earthquake.

“We have no place to sleep. We do not have tents or tarpaulins to protect ourselves from the cold and the dew. No one has come with help. We are also and we are desperate,” she says.

The survivors, who narrowly escaped the disaster, are grappling with the loss of not just their homes, but also their entire villages. They express frustration that their local representatives have not yet reached out to them.

“The earthquake demolished our home, we’re starving, but no one has come to check on us,” says Jaisi.

Kids playing in Chhepare village. Photo: Aryan Dhimal
People have brought most of their clothes outside to stay warm. Photo: Aryan Dhimal
A man shows his bruise. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

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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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