Field Report by Umesh Shrestha and Rishikesh Dahal
Ram and Maiya Baasi are searching clothes for their daughter. Their 16-year old daughter is in a hospital. They are trying to find some clothes in the debris of the fallen house near Dattatreya Temple in Bhaktapur, an ancient city east of Kathmandu. The district hospital has referred their daughter to another hospital, but the couple don’t have money for that. ‘Our house is damaged, daughter is injured, please help us’- Maiya pleaded to us when we went there for reporting.
Everywhere around us, we can only see debris of destroyed houses. It’s hard to separate houses from streets. Security forces are involved in relief work and they have found four dead bodies just west of this couple’s destroyed property.
Many houses have been completely destroyed, some partially. Amidst the ruins, one can see framed pictures of family members hanging on the wall, utensils, and carpets lying around. Damaged kitchens can be seen from outside, in a state of damage.
“It is shaking, please be careful”- a security person involved in rescue operation was shouting. The earthquakes took down people’s houses. Houses partially destroyed may crash and kill people. Rescuers are themselves working in a highly risky situation. A lot of destroyed houses still remain to be inspected.
Maiya has been asked repeatedly by security personnel to move to a safer place. She refuses to. Her daughter, who took the school leaving exam (SLC) this year lies injured. She’s hoping to find something in her house’s debris that could be of help for her daughter’s treatment. “All the jewellery and money has been buried”- she was saying as her hands laid on a dead chick. Many animals have also been buried. This scene was telling us- the possibility of a dangerous epidemic in the aftermath of the earthqyake was very alive.
During our reporting, as we were walking among the ruins of destroyed buildings, we saw moterbikes buried under us. Local youths informed that many cars and motorbikes were buried and there could be people right beneath the debris we were walking on. It was a chilling thought.
Rescue work is itself challenging. “We don’t know what lies 50 meters inside here”- one army personnel told us, “Can you use your camera to see if something lies there ?” While we were using drones to film the ruins, this request from the rescuers was making their desperation evident.
Today is the third day after the big earthquake. Tremors are still being felt. The sky is gloomy. There’s some drops of rain from the sky. Some people were looking for utensils in the ruins. They were taking shelters in local squares, but they needed soemthing to cook on.
The main source of water here are groundwater wells. The water in the wells have become murky but the local youths are still carrying it to the shelter. The houses to the north and south of the eastern side of the Dattatrya temple square have been completely destroyed. The narrow streets of Bhaktapur went past through these houses but now rescue workers are not able to tell the streets from the houses.
Ram and Maiya asked us if anyone would be able to help them. The security personnels had been toiling on the field and conducting rescues on a diet of noodles and water. They had no answer for Ram and Maiya. “We are here to report on the situation. We will go and tell the government how you are suffering.” This was all the answer that we could manage but even we don’t know what the government can do.
We are not convinced on the government’s effectiveness. After seeing this heartbreaking situation, we only have a question- do we have a government?