HONG KONG - As rescue efforts continue in Nepal, thousands of Nepalese living in Hong Kong fear for their family members back home.
Overseas Nepalese are a critical part of Nepal's economy, sending back remittances each year that total about $4 billion, about one quarter of the country's gross domestic product.
Some 40,000 Nepalese live in Hong Kong; many are descendants of Ghurka soldiers who fought with the British Army.
Ashish Gurum is from Nepal and works as a manager at Hong Kong restaurant Forbes 36.
He said he and his friends from Nepal have been consumed by fear for their loves since hearing news of the earthquake.
“I was really scared because I thought it was a really small one, but when I checked on Facebook I got really scared because I saw the news. I tried to reach my family, but I hardly could reach them. I called like 20 times. And finally I called one of my friends, who said, they are ok, everyone is ok, they are staying out of the home, they are sleeping on the ground,” said Gurum.
Heavy rain has hampered rescued efforts in Nepal, where villages near the epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude quake have been devastated.
Nepalese officials fear the death toll may rise above 10,000 and have established a fund to assist families with funeral expenses and a National Reconstruction Fund to rebuild infrastructure in the country. Tsapa Deep of the Hong Kong Nepalese Federation said the Nepalese community in Hong Kong is sending aid and supplies.
“We are helping Nepal. We are buying blankets, and some foods, and we are collecting here some money,” said Deep.
Hong Kong’s legislature approved $6.5 million in aid to the earthquake-struck region. Chinese citizens are also giving large donations to victims of the disaster. As of noon Thursday, more than 250,000 people had donated $3.2 million to Nepal earthquake relief efforts using a popular (Tencent) online payment system. The Chinese government has pledged over $3 million in goods and supplies and sent in dozens of search and rescue experts.
Nepalese employees and managers of the Forbes 36 restaurant are also doing what they can to help.
“We have organized a small charity box at the bar. If people are interested then they can put money over there as a donation. And from our staff side we are collecting our one week tips and we can put it in the fund,” said Gurum.
Nearly a week after the earthquake hit rescuers are still pulling survivors from the rubble. For the long-term, remittances from Nepalese workers abroad will remain a key part of the rebuilding effort.