Nepal quake survivors fight freezing temperatures

Laprak, February 5

Nine months after a massive earthquake hit Nepal, thousands of survivors are now fighting sub-zero temperatures in flimsy temporary shelters, awaiting government help to rebuild their homes.

The threat of landslides had forced families in the remote village of Laprak, close to the quake’s epicentre in western Nepal, to relocate to a site a thousand metres higher.

Rajani Gurung was among those who trekked to safety, carrying her newborn son and her two daughters. The 7.8-magnitude quake which struck Nepal on April 25, killing nearly 9,000 people, reduced their house to a rubble.

But her new shelter of tin roof and tarps offers little protection against the snow that now blankets the settlement overnight. Bone-chilling wind whistle through the gaps and drops of water seep in as the snow melts, wetting her bedding and blankets.

“Life is difficult here because of the cold but we don’t have another option. We cannot go back to our old village,” the 28-year-old said.

Nepal’s National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR), which is meant to oversee the rebuilding, was only set up in December last year after months of political bickering, despite donor pledges of billions in aid.

Quake victims have so far received just $150 in compensation per household, while the government has promised an additional $2,000 once the NAR is able to disburse funds.

The NAR is now conducting a detailed assessment of the quake-hit areas and hopes to begin rebuilding before April.

But the survivors of Laprak and thousands of others like them cannot wait that long.

Bis Bahadur Gurung, another villager, said they are ready to protest if the government does not respond soon.

“If government takes longer to help us reconstruct our homes, we are ready to go and sit in front of officials in Kathmandu and protest,” the 50-year-old said. “We have enough clothes, blankets (and) relief items. But it’s difficult as we don’t have homes ... We hope the government helps us build homes soon.”