From Andrea Dell’Angelo’s diary
Arrival in Nepal
Oddly there is no traffic in Katmandu. The environment seems still, immobile, and we don’t hear the horns of the cars. Our colleague Ratna comes to pick us up and with our faces tired from the trip, we smile at him. He smiles back but he is not tired, he is scared.
Along the sides of the road we can see collapsed walls, in the parks and in every open space there are makeshift tents, tents from Indian, Chinese, American, Korean aid groups. Sometimes we pass in front of a crooked house, a disintegrated house, a slanting one, a bent one, but the thing that strikes us the most is the silence. The dogs don’t bark, the cars don’t whizz by, the monkeys don’t scream.
The day after our arrival we visit the Manasarovar school that ASIA has been supporting for many years. The structure seems to be fine, with some small cracks on the surface but nothing seriously, fortunately. When we first heard the news of the earthquake we all immediately panicked and wanted to know straight away if something had happened to the many children and teachers there. A 5-story building in Kathmandu; a 5-story building in Bouddha, one of the highest!
Tsultrim, Bijaya (the two principals) and some elders of the Tibetan community come to meet us. We hug each other and in their eyes we read the fear, a kind of fear that remains with you for a long time, that changes you, and moves something inside you. They are all scared and with the slightest vibration their eyes open wide and they become immobilized, like waiting for the worst. Many families of the school children have lost their homes, or worse, have lost someone dear to them. The community, often made up of Tibetan refugees, once again is sleeping outside, homeless and at the mercy of the weather, the lucky ones have a tent, often too small for the whole family. There are no toilets, there is no rubbish collection, the water is already too polluted to drink. Chaos.
After several days of meetings, we decide to go Baluwa, in the district of Kavre, where ASIA has been working for many years with water and sanitation projects: water supply, water purification plants, toilets, biogas and others. Although the UN considers this area to be priority 3, we decide to go and see how our old beneficiaries are, the people with whom ASIA has worked for six years. On the road up to Dhulikhel there is nothing. Some walls have fallen, a few houses with cracks. Leaving the paved road we notice a few houses that had been destroyed … a few, to tell the truth. Amazed at the “miracle” we continue up to the Baluwa East aqueduct. It has a few cracks, the tubes are disjointed but nothing serious and irreparable. Thank goodness!
The representative of the WSC (Water System Committee) comes to meet us with tears in his eyes and tells us that all this is a disaster. What? We don’t understand, thinking that maybe he is exaggerating. He takes us to ward no. 5 of the VDC (Village Development Committee). We approach on foot and every step brings into view an apocalyptic scenario. It’s an image of every type of misfortune, every war and every natural disaster, something which, unfortunately, we are all getting used to. The distant picture gets closer and closer and begins to become real. Houses ripped apart, and rubble, rubble, rubble. Naked dirty children come out of makeshift tents. Flashes of daily life emerge from the rubble and the open shells of brick and mud houses – bags of rice, shoes, pots, radios and much more.
We walk through this world that has been destroyed, a rural post-atomic scene. Our guide points out the destroyed houses, he tells us stories, talks about the dead and the living. Often the smell of decomposing animals is unbearable, some of us cough and others start to retch. Shivers, sadness mixed with hope. Many families are already busy working to build a shelter for the monsoon season. We ask if they need food, water or medicine or anything else. We are in a circle and many villagers who joined us on the tour of the fear, talk and try to tell us, to explain how things are, how they live, and how they will live. In reply they tell us that they need something that will help them get by until September when the rains will end and they will be able to move forward, to rebuild.
As we leave in the car all of us have our eyes on the countryside. Every so often someone says something of little importance or anyway of little importance in that moment. We are all thinking that in two days we will be going to Rasuwa. Priority 1
ASIA HAS STARTED EMERGENCY OPERATIONS IN KATHMANDU AND IN THE RURAL DISTRICTS OF RASUWA AND BALUWA TO THE NORTH OF THE CITY.
TO SUPPORT THE NEPALESE PEOPLE AND TO FIND OUT MORE: