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‘There is no place to stay, nothing to eat’

JAJARKOT, Nepal: The wails of eight-year-old Prem Kala Kami echoed across her Nepali village on Sunday, as the shroud-wrapped bodies of her parents and two of her brothers lay beside her awaiting cremation. The remote village of Chiuri was one of the worst-hit places when a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck western Nepal late Friday. It has only about 40 houses, all of them now reduced to rubble or heavily damaged, and 13 of its residents died.

Sitting under a tarpaulin shelter with relatives and neighbors mourning the loss, Prem Kala’s uncle held her as she wept, a fresh white bandage wrapped around her finger. “After the quake we rushed to their house to rescue them but only found bodies,” her uncle Kalpali BK told AFP — his surname an abbreviation commonly used among low-caste Dalit people in Nepal for Bishwokarma. “There were seven people in the family,” he said. “Four died.”

Prem Kala is the youngest child in the family. The only other siblings to survive — her sister and one her brothers — were away when the quake struck. Once the gathering finished mourning, the bodies, draped with garlands of marigolds, were carried to the riverside on biers for cremation, in accordance with Hindu principles.

JAJARKOT: Survivors sit in front of a damaged house in Chiuri village at Jajarkot district on Nov 5, 2023. – AFP photos
JAJARKOT: Survivors sit in front of a damaged house in Chiuri village at Jajarkot district on Nov 5, 2023. – AFP photos

Chiuri is a farming settlement in a valley in Jajarkot district, where most of the earthquake’s at least 157 victims died. Many families suffered losses. One weeping woman carried the body of her grandson to his bier, wrapped in a bright orange shawl. The whole village spent the night after the quake digging bodies and survivors out from the rubble of their homes.

Khumbaya Magar was woken by the quake and fled his house before the structure gave way, only to learn that his daughter and her family were missing. “I found out that my daughter, son in law and grandson had all been hit. We pulled out the bodies from their houses,” he said.

Many survivors spent the night under the open sky. “We didn’t sleep. We spent the night pulling bodies out,” said Prajit BK. “There were about 40 families here, but all houses have turned to dust. There is no place to stay, nothing to eat.”

Rescue efforts were called off on Sunday after officials confirmed 105 people had died in Jajarkot and another 52 in neighboring Rukum district. Harish Chandra Sharma, a Jajarkot district official, said the focus was now on providing relief to the victims. “It has been a tough night and we are trying to get relief materials to those affected by the quake,” Sharma said. “Some have been distributed but we need to reach all areas.”

Nepal lies on a major geological fault line where the Indian tectonic plate pushes up into the Eurasian plate, forming the Himalayas, and earthquakes are a regular occurrence. Nearly 9,000 people died and more than 22,000 were injured in 2015 when a 7.8-magnitude quake struck the country, destroying more than half a million homes. Friday’s tremor was felt as far away as India’s capital New Delhi, nearly 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the epicenter. “We helped out as much as we could,” said survivor Kesari Kumai BK in Chiuri. “We managed to save my sister-in-law. But we lost so many others.” — AFP

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