Nepal’s authorities are racing against time to provide aid to those affected by the devastating earthquake that struck on Friday, claiming the lives of at least 157 people and causing widespread destruction in the remote mountainous region. The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Jajarkot district, approximately 500 kilometers west of Kathmandu, and it occurred just before midnight on Friday.
As a result of the earthquake’s destructive force, hundreds of houses in the mountainous area were reduced to rubble, forcing many residents to spend a harrowing Saturday night exposed to the elements. Out of the total 157 casualties, 120 bodies have been handed over to their grieving families, while approximately 253 individuals suffered injuries. This earthquake is the most devastating Nepal has experienced since the catastrophic event in 2015.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is currently leading a Cabinet meeting to determine a special relief package for the earthquake survivors. The government, however, has taken a cautious approach in seeking foreign aid for search and rescue operations and the logistics of relief distribution in the wake of this disaster, particularly in Jajarkot and West Rukum districts.
In response to the disaster, neighboring countries India and China, along with the United States, have extended their support by sending rescue teams and logistical assistance to Nepal for victim search operations. Prime Minister Prachanda, while visiting the affected areas, mentioned that no decision has been made yet regarding foreign aid acceptance, but a Cabinet meeting on Sunday morning will decide on this matter. He also expressed the intention to expedite relief and rehabilitation operations.
The government, in its effort to alleviate the suffering, has decided to dispatch relief materials including blankets, clothing, and food items, starting on Sunday. Furthermore, the distribution of relief materials donated by various agencies will also commence. Local officials acknowledge the chaotic situation faced on Saturday morning due to inadequate resources to handle the disaster.
Harischandra Sharma, assistant chief district officer in Jajarkot, highlighted the challenges faced by the under-resourced and ill-equipped district hospital. He mentioned, “The hospital lacks both human resources and equipment to deal with a huge number of victims. We were struggling to cope with things on Saturday morning.” However, with the arrival of additional doctors and medical teams from Kathmandu and Surkhet, the situation is gradually improving.
Suresh Sunar, the Chief District Officer of Jajarkot, confirmed the successful completion of rescue operations for earthquake victims and announced that relief distribution will commence on Sunday. Over 1,000 households have been affected, resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage. Preparations have been made to streamline the relief distribution process through a one-door system.
Jajarkot suffered the most significant damage in the earthquake, with 105 casualties reported in this district alone. A team of seismological experts from the National Earthquake Monitoring and Research Center has arrived in Jajarkot to conduct further study and research on the earthquake that struck on that fateful Friday night.