SINDHUPOLCHOK, NEPAL —
The small fishing village of Majigaon, on the banks of the Indravati River, 100 kilometers (60 miles) by road from Kathmandu, exists on few maps. Now, it has literally been wiped off the map.
Not a single structure still stands in Majigaon. All 50 stone and wood homes tumbled in an instant last Saturday when the magnitude-7.8 quake struck Nepal.
Majigaon is one of numerous villages and hamlets in the hardest-hit Sindhupolchok district to suffer total devastation.
A VOA news crew reached Majigaon Thursday after traveling for hours in an off-road vehicle over earthquake-damaged roads just cleared of landslides and then hiking down a steep path on a terraced paddy field.
Five people died in Majigaon, one teenaged boy is missing and about 20 villagers were injured.
A Singaporean rescue team showed up for less than 20 minutes Wednesday to render first aid, a villager said. Several injured, including an 18-month-old girl with a broken leg, remain in the destroyed village.
The stench of death is not human, it is from livestock trapped in the rubble.
The timing of the quake was fortunate for the people, who were mostly in the fields, chopping firewood or cutting grass for their livestock. But it was tragic for the animals, which had been tied up in sheds sheltered from the midday heat and could not flee when Saturday’s tremor began.
Some goats and chickens roam atop the rubble – the few animals that have survived. The loss of nearly all livestock is a devastating blow for impoverished and now homeless people all across the district.
For four days, the survivors in Majigoan had nothing to eat. Then they heard aid was being distributed in nearby Melamchi.
Akash Maji, 24, said when people from Majigaon arrived they discovered the aid had been distributed, mostly to relatively well-off shopkeepers whose properties were not seriously damaged.
The Majigaon delegation had no money, but arranged to purchase on credit 30 sacks of rice, each containing 30 kilograms.
Although Majigaon has existed for countless generations, the villagers are now debating whether they should bother to rebuild here, fearing another earthquake will cause a repeat tragedy.
“If we construct the same kind of structure, similar incidents are going to occur,” said Narayan Krishna Maji, 43. “We don’t have the money to build stronger houses. And who is going to care about us? If an NGO or some social agency comes forward to help us, we are saved. Otherwise we have nothing with which to survive.”
Even many communities closer to Kathmandu are reciting woes similar to Majigaon's.
A hamlet named Ratomatey, on a hill in the Himalayan foothills overlooking fertile rice fields in the adjacent Kavre district, has also been flattened. Here, too, not a single structure is habitable and precious livestock is buried in the rubble. No aid has reached Ratomatey, where 12 people died.
More than 11,000 injured in Nepal
Near Ratomatey injured survivors wait for help. It may be days or weeks before some are reached in a country where the official tally of those injured by the quake has surpassed 11,000.
In Mahadevstan, in Kavre district, the only assistance received has been a donation from the local Red Cross of 90 tarps under which survivors from 1,700 collapsed houses are supposed to shelter.
As villagers aired their complaints to a VOA news crew, a woman who had been extricated from the rubble of her home in nearby Borgaon was carried to Mahadevstan.
Wrapped in a green blanket, having apparently suffered a broken back, she was listless on a blue stretcher as flies covered her body, attracted by the stench of her dead husband whom she had laid beside for five days.
Residents said the town’s only ambulance was in service elsewhere and unless the woman could pay for transport there was no ride for her to a hospital.
A policeman arrived and flagged down a passing truck, convincing the reluctant driver to take the woman to the nearest medical center. The stretcher was lifted into the back of the truck for a bumpy one-hour ride.