First-Hand Report from Nepal
Greg Sharkey, SJ, is a very dear friend of mine who lives and works in Nepal. He happened to be Stateside at the time of the earthquake, but was at the airport headed to Kathmandu the same day. He has just written to me as follows below. Please pray for him and for everyone in Nepal, and please donate as much as you can to the charities sending supplies and medical assistance. The lives of eight million people are on the line.
It is so hard to keep up with emails, while organizing efforts that have to be made immediately, in these early days, in order to save lives. Apologies for my cybernetic silence.
The death toll is now well above 5000; but I am sure that very large numbers of the dead will never be counted. It is wrenching to get daily updates from the Tamang and Newar villages of Kavre, Sindhuplachok and Dolakha Districts, in which I’ve lived and done research. Many of the numbers have a beloved name and face attached.
The official count of serious casualties — i.e., requiring surgery — is over 10K. I spent the morning at Dhulikhel Hospital — about an hour outside Kathmandu Valley. It’s the place where many of the wounded from the above-mentioned districts are brought. We brought orthopedic surgery supplies, which are desperately needed here. The hospital is so overstuffed that patients awaiting surgery are lined up on mats in the lobby. I thank God for my various stints as a hospital chaplain during formation; otherwise the sights would be overwhelming.
In the afternoon I took a group of Taiwanese doctors and volunteers to Bhaktapur, the ancient medieval capital. Nearly all the historic buildings are reduced to piles of broken brick. Search and rescue teams are still struggling to extricate those who were trapped in the mountains of debris. (In some of the narrow lanes, 3-4 buildings collapsed into one pile.) At this point, however, it’s a matter of removing the dead. I spent some time comforting a Newar couple whose son was trapped on the ground floor of one such pile. He was able to text his pleas for help for two days; and then the phone went dead. A Korean search-and-rescue team removed the body today. Even cowboys cry at that stuff…
It’s all quite draining; and the knowledge that villagers out in hundreds of hill villages have received no help yet, is daunting. But knowing that our efforts truly matter is a great consolation that keeps us going. We are looking after each other and taking time to step away from it all and breathe deeply. We are also holding daily meetings to discuss what’s going on. That lets us share what we are experiencing. Asians don’t do that the way Americans would; but it’s working. We’re standing strong for the good of the afflicted. I drag myself home each evening, have a good, quick cry over the reports of friends’ deaths, go to sleep, then get up to make the coffee. What else can you do?
I’m too busy to write all my friends. Feel free to share this as broadly as you like.