While I was travelling in Nepal with a Cordaid assessment team, the inhabitants of Arteche, a village in the mountains of the Sindhupalchok district, shared a terrifying story.
On April 25, the day of the earthquake, they celebrated a wedding. About 400 people had gathered for the party in the village. After the wedding ceremony, lunch was about to be served. Then the earthquake struck at 11:45. In panic, wedding guests and villagers alike ran down the mountain.
When the shocks subsided after half an hour, a group of people, including a student with a video camera, returned to the village. They saw a horrifying scene: all houses were destroyed, as well as the school and the health center.
The villagers managed to rescue quite a few people who got trapped in the debris of collapsed houses. But they also found the bodies of fifteen persons who had died under the rubble, including a group of six women preparing the lunch buffet in the house of the groom’s family. Three people were severely injured. The Nepalese army took them to hospital by helicopter.
All on tape
The student who had the camera is Dil Tamang. Dil had come from Kathmandu to join his family and attend the wedding party. He approached me with his camera, asking if I could charge it, so he could show the pictures and videos he made. He said he didn’t get the chance to take pictures or make a video when the quakes started. However, he recorded everything upon return to the village.
Together with Dil, I hooked up the camera to my lap top computer. Surrounded by villagers, we watched the images of the wedding and the horrifying scene of the earthquake’s aftermath. I asked Dil if I could have his pictures and publish excerpts of his videos. He said he would like to see the story published, and gave me the name of his Facebook page.
The bride and groom
With our interpreter Vandana Shakya, I interviewed the bride and groom. The groom, Budiman Tamang (26), works as a waiter in a hotel along the road from Kathmandu to the Chinese border. The bride, Sita Tamang (22), takes care of the household and the family farm. Budiman and Sita are no exception: in most households here the men work in the city or abroad. The women work the land, growing crops, like corn, rice and mustard seeds on meticulously kept terraces along the mountain slopes.
Right now, the newlyweds’ main concerns are food and shelter. They have helped to build temporary communal shelters using lumber and tin roof sheets from the collapsed houses. That will do, they say, with the current dry weather. However, they worry that when the monsoon season starts in six weeks or so, the shelters will not provide sufficient protection against the rain.
Another concern has to do with the food supply. The villagers have managed to rescue most, but not all of their stock. They do not have enough food to bridge the time to the next harvest, three months from now. They have also lost live stock, including a water buffalo. Water buffaloes are important here: they serve to plough the land, nourish the soil with cow dung, and provide milk to drink or sell.
Relief and recovery
Cordaid is hoping to start working with the inhabitants of Archale and the other eight villages of the municipality Sipapokhare soon – offering urgently needed relief, but also longer term assistance with the reconstruction of houses, schools and health centers, and the recovery of their livelihoods.