“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.” – Petra Nemcova
News of the devastating earthquake this past Saturday has sent shock waves throughout the world. Once again, Nepal is struggling to help rescue survivors after another catastrophe. For me personally, my heart is broken. A place that has meant so much to me has continually suffered and is now in ruins. A place where I found my voice and was inspired to start this blog.
They sometimes say that bad things happen in threes. In Nepal’s case, I certainly hope it ends at three. A series of natural tragedies over the last year has brought heartache and struggle to this tiny mountain country, one of the poorest countries in the world.
It first began back in April 2014. Out of nowhere came the horrifying Everest Ice Fall that killed 12 Sherpas and was the single deadliest accident in Everest’s history. It happened at the height of trekking and climbing season and essentially destroyed the remainder of the year decimating much-needed revenue from tourism and Nepalese faith in the protection of its Sherpas who risk their lives for their wealthy clients.
Then only a few months later in October 2014, tragedy struck at the exact same place I was a little over three and a half years ago. A snowstorm struck, beginning an avalanche claiming the lives of dozens of porters and trekkers on the very path I had walked over the Thorung La along the Annapurna Circuit hike.
As someone who hiked in this very same spot, it still to this day is incomprehensible why the climbers did not spend the extra night in the hostel before attempting the three-hour climb up to Thorung La and the long, six-hour descent down to Jomson. There is absolutely no protection during the long walk down, nowhere to hide. Why they did this in the midst of a snowstorm is beyond comprehension. I searched the papers for any reason why they tried to beat the storm but found none. To this day I still wonder why they left.
If these tragedies were not enough, Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake which hammered Kathmandu, Everest Base Camp, remote mountain-side villages in rural Nepal and parts of India continued to place an already desperately poor place into further ruins. Thousands are dead, and the rescue and aid operations continue especially for the many people of Nepal who live in such remote villages, they are only accessible on foot or via helicopter. It will take days to truly know the full extent of the tragedy.
My heart bleeds for the people of Nepal.
What makes matters more devastating for Nepal is the lack of infrastructure and the poverty. Nepal’s capital Kathmandu was already a collection of poorly built ramshackle apartments and buildings. Just like Port-au-Prince, Haiti, another earthquake struck place I’d visited, cities like Kathmandu simply cannot hold up. Even before the earthquake access to electricity, running water and sanitation and medical care was scant. Now that tragedy has stuck, Nepal is drowning in the aftermath.
It is heartbreaking.
What I have learned throughout the years is that although desperately needed money and aid will pour into Nepal to help with its immediate needs, once the news of the tragedy leaves the paper it will disappear as well from the minds of the world and be forgotten. What needs to be done is more sustainable, long-term aid. More investments in infrastructure, emergency planning, health care and the economy are truly what matter in helping the people of Nepal once the floodgate of initial aid stops. But sadly, it may never come and like Haiti, Nepal will be left to fend for itself, bracing for the next unforeseeable tragedy that is bound to come.