SINDHUPOLCHAK, NEPAL - Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides, making it difficult to assess the precise toll of casualties and destruction.
A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. The Sindhupolchak district, 100 kilometers east of Kathmandu, suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
The small fishing village of Majigaon, on the banks of the Indravati River, exists on few maps. Now, it has been wiped off the map.
All 50 stone and wood homes tumbled in an instant when the quake shattered Nepal.
To reach Majigaon, a VOA news crew drove for hours over roads just cleared of landslides, and then hiked down a steep path on a terraced paddy field.
Five people died there. One teenaged boy is missing and about 20 villagers were injured.
Akash Maji said that when those from Majigaon went to the closest town where aid was being distributed, they found it all already in the hands of relatively well-off shopkeepers whose properties were not seriously damaged.
“We are in a helpless state. We don’t have a place to stay nor anything to eat,” said Maji.
Majigaon has existed for generations, but the fishermen are now debating whether they should bother to rebuild here.
“If we construct the same kind of structure, similar incidents are going to occur. 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,” said Narayan Krishna Maji, a quake survivor.
In nearby Ratomatey, in the Himalayan foothills, 12 people died. None of the red clay and stone structures are habitable.
There are not just human casualties but also livestock that have been lost. Trapped beneath fallen structures are goats, chickens and cows. A buffalo that survived has already been taken away. These things are a huge financial loss for people on a subsistence living.
Injured survivors wait for help. It may be days or weeks before it reaches them.
On the road back to Kathmandu, a woman who had been extricated from the rubble of her home was placed on the roadside.
She had lain beside her dead husband for five days, suffering from what appeared to be a broken back.
The town’s only ambulance was in service elsewhere. Without money to pay for transportation, there would be no ride to a hospital.
A policeman finally flagged down a passing truck, convincing the reluctant driver to take her to the nearest medical center.
The stretcher was lifted into the back for a bumpy one-hour ride.