Another Earthquake Hits Nepal on the Eve of Historic Earthquake’s 4th Anniversary
This morning, the Kathmandu Valley awoke at 6:30 am to the earth, once again shaking beneath them.
The earthquake’s epicenter was just shy of 80km from Bhaktapur, measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale.
This earthquake was fairly small for Nepal and thankfully, from what I understand, no one was injured . . . but we felt it. This earthquake came on the eve of the anniversary of the massive 2015 earthquake, and with the tremors came the memories of four years before.
On April 25th, 2015 Nepal was hit by an earthquake that measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. This earthquake killed more than 9,000 people, injured more than 22,000 and destroyed the homes of countless people around the country. Landslides wiped out many villages completely, entire forests fell and lives were changed forever.
The city where Happy Kids Center is based, Bhaktapur, was hit particularly badly in 2015. Bhaktapur is a historic city. Many of the homes here are 200, 300 and 400 years old. When the earthquake hit much of Bhaktapur crumbled.
People were forced to flee the city amid violent aftershocks, leaving their homes and belongings in rubble, wondering whether or not their friends and neighbors were safe.
They spent weeks living in fields because the aftershocks made it too dangerous to return home. There was an unofficial blockade at the Indian Border stopping almost all fuel supplies to Nepal. There was not enough food. There was no electricity, and no way to contact friends and family to ensure they were safe.
This was a traumatic time for everyone in Nepal, but in particular, the children, whos’ worlds were opened up to death and destruction in a way most of us will not experience in the duration of our lives.
I bring this up today because while I was jolted awake by this 4.7 earthquake this morning, I fell back asleep and awoke an hour later, unsure of whether or not it was a dream.
However, when I went down to Happy Kids Center 1.5 hours later I was met by a very, very different response to the morning’s events.
“There was an earthquake” they shouted at me, with panic painted across the young faces of the girls collecting water, “Did you feel it?!”
Of course, I had, I told them as calmly as possible. But it became immediately clear that their experience of this small earthquake was very, very different from my own.
The children and their parents were convinced that this earthquake was the first of many to come. They were convinced that we were doomed to experience the same as they had four years ago.
There was panic in their eyes, remembering the trauma they went through at this time like it was yesterday.
Today, four years later the city is largely rebuilt, though it will never be what it once was. However, many of the major temples have been rebuilt, by local artisans through community collaboration, bringing pride Bhaktapur’s citizens.
The children we work with and their families have finally moved out of the slum full of temporary tin huts and into rooms in cheap housing where they have electricity and shelter from extreme weather conditions for the first time.
For me and many others who were not here on the day of the fateful earthquake in 2015, it feels like a piece of history that Bhaktapur has all but recovered from. And largely, they have! The resilience of Nepali people after this catastrophe is inspiring.
But the memory of the 2015 earthquake will never be forgotten.
So I suppose this blog entry has two major points:
First, it was the earthquake in 2015 that brought Happy Kids Center to Bhaktapur. While the children of our community are much better off for all that has happened since the earthquake, they have endured trauma that many of us cannot imagine. They are incredibly strong, as are all of the Nepali people who fought through this tremendously difficult time.
I want to take this day, just shy of four years to the day of the last major earthquake, to honor them.
Second, Earth Day was 2 days ago, and I believe the earthquake today serves as a reminder of just how small we are and how little control we have when the planet turns on us.
But, while we have no control over the big things, we do have control over the small acts that contribute to those big “natural disasters” yet to come.
I think most of us understand the direction in which humanity is headed. It is a world where natural disasters will increasingly affect the lives of people around the world. While we will likely never be able to prevent earthquakes, there is plenty that each of us can do to care our earth in small ways, and therefore protect our children.
So, I will end this blog entry by asking you all to take care of the planet and send love to our Happy Kids and all of Nepal during this stressful time.