I had the opportunity to fly on one of the MAF coordinated helicopter flights today, less than 24 hours after a second strong earthquake rocked Nepal. The 7.3 quake caused panic among many Nepali people with the memory of the devastating 25 April earthquake still fresh from two-and-a-half weeks ago.
The epicenter for the latest quake was east of Kathmandu this time in an area that was not listed as priority in the relief effort. For this reason, a French NGO, Acted, wanted to quickly check on the condition of the villages in that area to see if they needed immediate assistance.
What we saw was shocking. As we flew toward the area, damaged houses were scattered here and there in villages along the way. Suddenly the destruction took a turn for the worse. Nearly every home lay in a pile of rubble. Even the few houses that were still standing obviously suffered serious damage – too damaged to live in, especially with the multiple aftershocks the country is still receiving.
The first earthquake destroyed two-thirds of the houses. The earthquake yesterday finished off the last 50. None were habitable. No one had come to help.
The helicopter pilot searched for a place to land, finally choosing a narrow flat spot with drop-offs on both sides, and cracks in the earth running through several sections. It was empty of people, but a village lay a short distance away. Within minutes villagers came running. The two Acted staff, Elena Tifrea and Toma Dursima, gather information from the people.
Once they found someone who spoke English, they learned the hard news: in the village of 500 people and about 150 homes, the first earthquake destroyed two-thirds of the houses. The earthquake yesterday finished off the last 50. None were habitable. No one had come to help. No tarps brought, no food. They had some food left, noodles and biscuits only, they said. The water pipes had broken, latrines destroyed, everything gone.
One man kept saying, 'We have nothing, nothing.' It was truly heartbreaking.
As we flew away, Elena and Toma began making plans to come back as soon as possible with tarps and food, not only for this village but also for others equally damaged near the epicenter.
Although it’s distressing to see such loss and devastation, organizations like Acted are able to get to these remote places with the help of MAF co-ordinating the subsidised helicopter flights. Elena said, 'Thank you for your support, MAF. We could not do it without you.'