Monday, April 27, 2015

Napalese Heartbreak

Today is not a writing day for me, simply because I’m feeling so distraught for those lovely people in Nepal who have lost their loved ones and their homes—the death toll has climbed beyond 2,500 and the list of injured is almost 6,000. These shell-shocked Nepalese survivors are living in the streets, too afraid to return to their homes because of the numerous aftershocks. Who could blame them, when the aftershocks—some as strong as magnitude 6.7—keep pummeling the capital city? No one knows what to expect, and the emotional toll must be horrendous. It breaks my heart.

Saturday’s quake, centered fifty miles northwest of Kathmandu, was the strongest to hit that area in 80 years, measuring magnitude 7.8. It destroyed swaths of neighborhoods in the city and was felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, Tibet, and Pakistan.

Fortunately, planeloads of supplies, doctors and relief workers from neighboring countries have arrived, and the USA is also organizing a relief effort.

The bad news is that local aid works are now claiming that many remote mountain villages near the epicenter may have been completely buried by rock falls. Most areas in Kathmandu are without power and water, the hospitals are overcrowded and running out of supplies. They are even running out of space to store corpses, and they are cremating them. Most stores and shops are closed. It seems only the fruit vendors are doing a brisk business because so many people can’t cook; they need nourishment from something they can eat raw. The situation is bleak.

It is not clear how this tragedy will affect tourism, but if it does, this impoverished country will suffer even more, because Nepal’s 28 million people rely heavily on tourism, principally trekking and mountain climbing.

Herman and I have visited Nepal on several trips, and we both love the Kathmandu Valley and also the game parks where, on safari, we rode on the backs of elephants to photo-shoot tigers in the wild. I can say first hand that the Nepalese are a strong, rugged, and beautiful people, every bit as lovely as the landscape of their country. It is a shame that such misfortune has struck them.

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