Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nepal's Aid System is Broken So These Lifesavers Hacked It

(This is a terrific article to learn how social media is helping Nepal recover from the recent earthquake. - Lori)
[Wired] The village of Dandagaun is hard to reach on a good day. The access road starts at the Bhote Koshi River, a Class V waterway that drains Himalayan glaciers, then heads more or less straight up for 5,000 feet, past tiny villages and mountain streams. After 10 long miles it curves into a bowl that opens to the northeast. Here sit terraced fields of rice and corn cut into the hillside. Technically speaking, the village, in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk district, lies in the Himalayan foothills. But these are foothills in the way that the sun is a medium-size star. The ridgeline above the village rises sharply for a quarter mile. Looking at it requires straining your neck directly up.
In the morning, when light first cuts through the gorge and fills the bowl, Dandagaun is the kind of place that could change an agnostic’s mind. To the south you can see the Bhote Koshi cutting its way through the deep gorge. To the northeast the Himalayas shine like so many white knives. Tibet is 20 miles away. For the mix of 1,400 or so Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians who live here, the presence of the divine is a tactile fact, visible each and every day. Of course there are gods. They live in the peaks just upriver.
Many observers of the April 25, 7.8-magnitude earthquake have noted the devastation’s sporadic nature: One Kathmandu neighborhood is fine, the next a scene from The Road. But there was nothing random about what happened at Dandagaun that Saturday. Open bowls beneath knife-edge ridges are bad places to be during earthquakes. First the mountain shook, destroying most of the village’s 180-odd stone and mud buildings. Then the ridgeline above simply fell apart, setting off the equivalent of a geologic mortar attack. A series of rockslides came off the mountainside, careering for about a quarter mile and gathering speed. Massive boulders ripped through town, crushing several houses. An elderly man out cutting grass was beheaded. When the geology had finished rearranging itself, 34 people perished and only a few buildings were left standing. The survivors burned the dead.
A couple of days later, when the hillsides were still shivering with aftershocks, Dipak Deuja, a charismatic, handsome 24-year-old from Dandagaun, started the long walk home. He’d been in Kathmandu at the time of the quake, and when he finally arrived at the village he found his immediate family and his bride of six weeks, Shunita, spared.
But 10 relatives, including an uncle, some nephews, and his brother’s wife, had been killed. Soon his cousin Sandesh Deuja, a 23-year-old truck driver with a somber glare and a crisp fauxhawk, arrived. He too had been working out of town at the time of the quake, and he too found his family spared but his house wrecked. Both men helped build temporary shelters from wood and corrugated metal for their families not more than 50 feet from the sites of their destroyed homes. Then they tended to the urgent matter of finding food. In rural Nepal, villagers cache harvested crops in their homes. Those were now a rubble. Sandesh and Dipak, like everyone else, dug out what rice and corn they could find and stored it in the school, which at least still had a roof. No walls, though—those had fallen in.
One week later, someone showed up: a raft guide named Megh Ale, who operates an eco-resort on the Bhote Koshi. He arrived with some medical supplies, volunteers, and not enough food. Upon seeing the extent of the devastation, he approached the Deujas. Ale told the cousins to head to Kathmandu and find a bed-and-breakfast called the Yellow House. Over the past two weeks, as the government and large international NGOs have struggled to deliver supplies in Nepal’s remote regions, the Yellow House has emerged as the hub of a vibrant guerrilla aid operation run by a handful of young people armed with little more than Facebook, open source mapping technology, local knowledge, and some antiestablishment verve. Read More

Second Nepal Earthquake The death toll from Tuesday's earthquake continues to rise, as the nation of Nepal states at least 76 have died from the quake. A U.S. Marine helicopter, which disappeared on the same day of the quake, remains missing. Tuesday's earthquake had an epicenter just 52 miles east of Kathmandu, and brought down many buildings that were already in precarious condition from the major quake back in April 25. The most recent quake had a magnitude of 7.3 and was followed by another quake of 6.3 magnitude less than an hour later. Aftershocks continue to rattle the nation on Wednesday.