29 Apr 2015

Nepal crying out for help

8:38 am on 29 April 2015

People in remote villages in Nepal are crying out for food and shelter as aid workers struggle to cope with the devastation dealt by Saturday's powerful quake.

Damaged houses can be seen from an Indian Army helicopter in Gorkha, Nepal.

Damaged houses can be seen from an Indian Army helicopter in Gorkha, Nepal. Photo: AFP

The United Nations estimates eight million people have been affected by the massive 7.8 magnitude quake – more than a quarter of Nepal's population.

Officials say the death toll has passed 5000 and could reach 10,000.

The National Emergency Operation Centre says another 10,000 people are injured and more than 450,000 are effectively homeless.

New Zealander Monique van Veen, 24, is in Nepal coordinating relief efforts to some of the country’s most remote villages.

“The biggest thing they need right now is just something to sleep under because everything has been destroyed,” she says.

“They don’t have enough food so we’re sending large bags of rice and dahl.”

Two Jeeps being loaded outside KarmaFlights bound for Saurpani.

Two Jeeps being loaded outside KarmaFlights bound for Saurpani. Photo: Rene Voss

Originally from the Hawke’s bay, Monique is now in Pokhara where she’s working with a local organisation to get critical supplies to villages close to the earthquake’s epicentre in Gorkha.

“We’ve sent a group of 20 medically trained volunteers as well as Nepalese locals to some of the more hard hit areas. As of yet, no international aid has reached them.”

KarmaFlights is an organisation that usually carry out development work through a paragliding business, but after the quake, the team began working to get supplies to villages like Saurpani, just outside of Gorkha district, that rescuers are still trying to reach.

LISTEN to three young New Zealanders on the ground in Nepal in On The Dial.

According to the United Nations estimates more than 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance around the country.

Monique says the volunteers’ supplies in Saurpani are running critically low.

“They’ve been overrun with locals who are trying to access help,” she says. “The latest stats we've received from there is that 1700 homes have been destroyed but we still can’t get to the higher villages.”

Locals gather in Gorkha

Locals gather in Gorkha Photo: Connor Greive

The military and the police have recently arrived in Saurpani and a helicopter has evacuated the most severely injured.

“We have the manpower but what they really need now is food, cooking supplies and tents.”

The plan now is to keep transporting supplies to the hard-hit villages, but Monique says a change in weather could make the six hour drive from Pokhara impossible.

“We’ve just had reports that the weather is about to turn really bad and if it rains, the roads are going to close again so it’s a bit of a tightrope right now.”

Wellingtonian Conor Greive, who is travelling in Nepal, is also looking to help in the relief efforts.

The 26-year-old is also based in Pokhara and says after the quake, he didn’t realise how bad the damage was.


Gorkha Photo: Conor Greive

“I was actually just reading a book and my friend came up and said it was world news. I realised my mum was probably completely flipping out so I borrowed a phone to call her and sure enough, she was.”

The day after the quake, Conor bought a small bag of medical supplies and rented a motorbike to ride out to Gorkha where he had heard 90% of villages had been destroyed. 

Not knowing the area well, Conor wasn’t able to get outside the city centre. He says “from the places I could reach easily on motorbike, it didn’t seem too bad but the whole town was shut down and everybody was very confused”.

On his way back to Pokhara, he spotted a crowd of Nepalese army officers, police and officials loading aid into an Indian airforce helicopter.

“I pushed my way through the crowd and gave them this bag of medical supplies,” he says. “They were very thankful and a lot of people came over and shook my hand”.



Posted by Reuben Harcourt on Monday, 27 April 2015

Reuben Harcourt, 23, describes the earthquake as “absolutely petrifying”.  

“We’re in a valley here and everything echoes off the walls. You could hear the whole village screaming over the racket of the quake itself.”

Reuben, originally from Paekakariki, is in Nepal volunteering at a children’s home in a village called Badikhel, south of Kathmandu.

“Some of the kids were just panicking and running through the hailing debris. We were really lucky no one was severely injured. We’re safe here for the time being.” 

But Reuben says it’s going to be a while before anyone feels completely safe. “I’m just standing in one of the rooms now sheltering from the rain, with the window open in case I have to jump out if there’s an aftershock. I’m just looking at a huge crack that makes its way across the whole wall.”

He says the town fared relatively well – people are camping in makeshift tents – and the roads are cleared so people can get out and look for food. He says people need shelter, medical supplies, food and cooking supplies, and drinking water or water purification tablets.

The village of Badikhel

The village of Badikhel Photo: Reuben Harcourt/Facebook

“Where I was going with this fundraising initiative was to try to do what I could to raise some money to get some earthquake supplies, get some more shelters and tents for neighbours in the village and get some medical supplies here.”

Has been overwhelmed by the support. “When I finally was able to charge my phone again, there was over a hundred comments of people saying they’d do whatever they could.”

“If people want to send money maybe I can do what little help I can do here, first of all for the village and the people who need it most in this area, and wider if I can gather some support.”

Cover image: Conor Greive