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Sacramento family hears fearful tales from relatives in quake-stricken Nepal

Volunteers work to remove debris at the historic Dharahara Tower, a city landmark, after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A Sacramento resident was relived to find that relatives in Nepal survived the quake, though a brother’s home was destroyed.
Volunteers work to remove debris at the historic Dharahara Tower, a city landmark, after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A Sacramento resident was relived to find that relatives in Nepal survived the quake, though a brother’s home was destroyed. AP

Sacramento real estate agent Kishore Sherchand and his wife have been working since early Saturday to piece together what has become of their family, friends and home in Nepal following the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake whose death toll continues to rise. As of late Sunday, more than 3,200 people were dead.

Sherchand said his brother in Kathmandu painted a picture of streets filled with tents and blankets as people were ordered to leave their homes – if the structures were even still standing – during a series of aftershocks, including one of about 6.7 magnitude. Torrential rains added to the misery.

“My brother told me it’s ‘terrifying, people are crying, we have to live outside for at least another 48 hours,’ and he said not all the people have tents or a place to stay in the streets. They’re in trouble,” Sherchand said. “I don’t know how they’re managing to cook. Some people are rushing back into their homes, cooking fast and coming back out.”

Sherchand, who moved to Sacramento in 2006, said he recalls two earthquakes in Nepal, a country of about 27 million, but nothing like Saturday’s quake, which has destroyed numerous temples and homes made of brick and stone, including his brother’s house.

“Fortunately, the quake hit on Saturday, when children don’t go to school and most people were out of their homes,” Sherchand said. But, he added, “Many ancient historic sites in Kathmandu, including the nine-story Dharahara Tower, completely collapsed and killed as many as 200 people at one spot.”

Sherchand said he worried about his 90-year-old mother and other relatives in Pokhara, 120 miles west of Kathmandu, but was relieved to find that they were well.

He estimates there are about about 1,000 Nepalese in the Sacramento area, most of them from eastern Nepal, which was not affected by the earthquake.

Because electricity and phone service have been cut off in wide areas of Nepal, Sherchand has been unable to contact some friends and family. “This has caused great worry to me and my family,” he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu, in the Gorkha district. Sherchand, who worked on an agricultural project in that region, said it is about halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara.

“I was also shocked when I could see the avalanche in the Mount Everest sites where many climbers are on their way to reach the peak,” he said, noting the deaths resulting from an avalanche caused by the quake.

Sherchand, 66, said he’s grateful that aid is coming from India, China, the United States, Great Britain and other countries, but he expressed fears that Nepal’s fragile political situation may hinder rescue and rebuilding efforts.

“What’s most painful and worrisome is, due to political instability and rampant corruption, the younger generation are rapidly fleeing away the country,” he said. Even before the quake, “electrical power is often shut off for 10 to 12 hours a day, up to 18 hours,” he said.

Sherchand said he is working to raise money with the Nepal Association of Northern California. For more information or to make donations, contact the group’s general secretary, Rabindra Rai, at 510-366-6399.

Rai, who lives in the Bay Area, said money, clothing, food and medicine are needed.

“It’s really bad,” he said. “There’s not enough water, many roads are closed, and we need all the help we can get – any kind of help.”

Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072.

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