26th April 2015

After the earthquake: the early months

Background information

The April 2015 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks devastated Nepal, causing around 30,000 casualties. Entire villages in isolated rural areas were destroyed. Millions of people across Nepal were affected by the disaster.

The GWT is responding. Our staff are doing all they can to support Gurkha veterans, their families and communities as they deal with the aftermath of Nepal’s worst catastrophe since the 1930s.

For the first three months following the disaster we provided regular updates from Nepal, which you can read below…

Monday 20 July

With the monsoon fully underway and major rebuilding works on hold, it’s a good time to take stock. So far, our supporters have donated nearly £3 million, an incredible amount.

In Nepal, we’ve already put a lot to good use, having spent nearly £500,000 on a range of emergency aid (see previous post). We look forward to beginning longer-term projects as soon as the weather permits.

This will be the last of our regular updates. It’s been nearly three months since the first earthquake laid waste to the Gurkha homeland. This has been one of the most demanding periods in the Trust’s history and it is only the beginning of a much larger challenge.

With your support, we will meet that challenge head on.

Gurkha veteran Sukbir Tamang receiving an emergency hardship grant

Gurkha veteran Sukbir Tamang receiving an emergency hardship grant

Wednesday 15 July

To date, our Earthquake Response Fund has already raised over £2.8 million. This incredible level of support has been invaluable as we reacted to the post-disaster emergency and will support us in the coming months and years as we begin to rebuild. The road ahead is long and we will continue to need your support.

Monsoon conditions are making relief distribution increasingly difficult

Monsoon conditions are making relief distribution increasingly difficult

Friday 03 July

The monsoon is already making itself felt with a series of landslides in northern Gorkha culminating in further misery for the people of Keraunja, who saw 60 houses swept away and another 475 at high risk. Flooding has occurred in a number of districts.

Road access has been severely affected and our field team has resorted to hiring helicopters in order to distribute relief supplies such as CGI sheets in some of the more remote regions.

Queen’s Gurkha Engineers have finished construction of a GWT-funded 6-room school block in Manbu, Gorkha. They also built two CGI shelters for the Community Health Centre and conducted basic medical treatment and sanitation lessons in Manbu and nearby Arughat.

The troops have also finished building a semi-permanent replacement Welfare Centre in Jiri, from which our teams will be able to operate.

To date, our teams have already distributed over 1,450 emergency aid packs, around 2,400 tarpaulins and 760 solar lights.

The completed school in Manbu, Gorkha

The completed school in Manbu, Gorkha

Saturday 27 June

The distribution of temporary shelter (CGI) and aid supplies remains top priority for our field teams. Field investigations of house damages reported by Gurkha pensioners continue despite the growing monsoon, which is deteriorating access roads and paths.

The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers’ construction of a Welfare Centre in Jiri and school in Manbu, Gorkha is well underway and should be complete within the next few days, after which the monsoon will postpone rebuilding efforts.

As part of the Trust’s Our Duty of Care Appeal, we’ll soon be recruiting additional mobile doctors and nurses, enabling us to provide increased medical care to Gurkha pensioners and earthquake victims in remote regions.

A delivery of CGI at our Welfare Centre in Gorkha

A delivery of CGI at our Welfare Centre in Gorkha

Friday 19 June

Against a backdrop of widespread concern over water shortages, we continue to distribute emergency supplies and shelter. Work is underway on a prefabricated school in Manbu, Gorkha, while troops from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers are also helping construct a replacement Welfare Centre in Jiri.

Following the earthquakes, this week’s medical camp in Syangja was a success with more than 1,700 citizens treated over three days.

Throughout Nepal, our centres have also been hosting Gurkha 200 celebrations for the veteran communities. These reunions have been well attended, providing some much needed enjoyment and distraction from the stress of life after the disaster.

This quarter’s pension payments are now complete, giving our veterans and their families a vital income during this uncertain period. It was also a chance to distribute further aid, in particular solar lighting.

However, some pensioners did not arrive at our Welfare Centres to collect their money. Some remain unaccounted for since the earthquakes. Our teams are currently seeking them out in their remote village homes; we’re hopeful that they will be waiting for us

A Welfare Officer in Kathmandu distributing solar lights to Gurkha veterans

A Welfare Officer in Kathmandu distributing solar lights to Gurkha veterans

Friday 12 June

An exceptionally busy period for the Trust culminated this week in the spectacular Gurkha 200 Pageant at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, attended by HM The Queen and an array of other distinguished guests and supporters.

At the Pageant, a minute’s silence was held for all those who tragically lost their lives in the earthquakes. All funds raised at the event will be put towards the GWT’s work with Gurkha veterans, their families and communities, helping to provide enhanced medical care and to rebuild following the destruction.

Back in Nepal, work has continued unrelentingly. The GWT has begun plans for construction of a new school to replace the one that was utterly shattered in Barpak, at the initial earthquake’s epicentre.

Shelters continue to be erected in advance of the heaviest monsoon rains, while our mobile medical teams are responding to the areas of need. We are establishing a prefabricated base to replace our destroyed Welfare Centre at Jiri, from which to operate in that remote region.

The school in Barpak has literally sunk into the ground

Monday 01 June

Since the initial earthquake struck, the GWT with support from the Brigade of Gurkhas has delivered 2,700 emergency aid packs in Dhading, Gorkha and Bagmati districts.

Some 2,000 emergency shelters have already been constructed, with more planned before the monsoon arrives in earnest.

Our temporary medical office in Jiri since the Welfare Centre became uninhabitable

Wednesday 27 May

Since 25 April, Nepal has registered a staggering 270 aftershocks with a magnitude over 4.0. The fear of further destruction continues to hang over Nepal’s citizens.

So far, we know there are around 2,000 Gurkha veterans that have been affected by the earthquakes, with many losing their homes and some, sadly, their lives. Our staff continue to assess damage and trial temporary shelters with the aim of distributing them among earthquake victims as soon as possible.

A man sleeps among the rubble of his former home

Monday 25 May

While the frequency and intensity of aftershocks are finally reducing, their effects have been felt. Many buildings weakened in the initial earthquake have since been shaken apart by ongoing tremors. As of today, 805 Gurkha veterans or widows have lost their homes entirely, while a further 1012 have suffered damage.

20 GWT-built schools have suffered minor damages and 45 of our water projects. Fortunately, their sound construction has withstood the worst of the impact. Three of our Welfare Centres are seriously damaged with a further 11 affected.

Debris from landslides has caused natural dams in a number of rivers, leading to a risk of floods. We have contingency plans for evacuation where necessary. Luckily, a major blockage in the Kali Gandaki River this weekend, which threatened our Welfare Centre in the Myagdi District, has overflowed naturally and resumed its normal course.

Our focus now is rehabilitating the most vulnerable earthquake victims in temporary shelters before the monsoon rains arrive.

A glimpse of planning in the Earthquake Ops room at British Gurkhas Camp, Pokhara

Wednesday 20 May

The combined DFID-GIZ Risk Management Office (RMO) has reported that a task force of geologists will deploy to earthquake affected districts to study the vulnerability of rural settlements to landslides. It is likely that thousands of households will have to relocate due to the high risk of landslides during the upcoming monsoon.

The GWT’s relief efforts continue alongside troops from the Brigade of Gurkhas. We regret to report that the number of confirmed fatalities among Gurkha veterans and widows has risen to 13.

GWT staff crossing one of the many landslides that are hindering relief efforts

Tuesday 19 May

The psychological impact of the earthquakes can be seen across Nepal as people continue to avoid living in houses.

Troops from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers have been working diligently alongside GWT teams, operating from our Welfare Centre in Gorkha. So far, they have already distributed:

  • over 10,000 CGI sheets for temporary shelters
  • two tonnes of rice
  • 3000 pieces of bamboo and timber
  • 250 emergency packs
  • 200 start-up tool packs

In addition, they’ve been assisting with debris clearance, road opening and digging latrines. They’ve so far assisted with construction of 400 temporary shelters.

An emergency shelter built by Gurkha troops working with the GWT

Monday 18 May

The death toll from the Nepal earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks has now reached over 8,500 while more than 22,000 people have sustained injuries. Sadly, these numbers will continue to rise. More than 240 aftershocks with magnitude 4 and above have been recorded in total since the main earthquake on 25th April 2015.

Our patrol teams are currently operating at very remote and isolated villages. Besides the relief work our teams are actively visiting all Gurkha veterans and their families. They’ve been providing vital medical supplies to the chronically ill while preparing property damage assessments as we plan for rehabilitation. On top of this, of course, our usual activities must continue.

Our Welfare Centre in Jiri has been reached by reinforcements although the building has sustained significant damage. Relief efforts continue from a makeshift base.

Damage to Area Welfare Centre Jiri

Friday 15 May

The wider relief operation continues in Nepal post second earthquake. BBC news has reported that the wreckage of a US military helicopter which went missing early this week has been found. The helicopter was delivering aid to the badly-hit village of Chalikot a village which is NE of Kathmandu.

The overall death toll continues to rise; reports suggest that at least 110 people were killed during Tuesday’s quake while Nepal was still reeling from the initial disaster. Our team has reported significant increase in infrastructural damage due to the second earthquake but has stepped up its relief effort in affected areas.

Our staff continue to deliver emergency relief packages and assess damage. Efforts are hampered by closure of access roads due to Tuesday’s earthquake. Following a communications blackout, we’ve established contact with our team in Jiri. They are well but our Welfare Centre there has suffered significant structural damage and partial collapse.

Tuesday’s earthquake has exacerbated existing damage

Wednesday 13 May

Yesterday’s magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck in Dolakha in the Everest region, between our Welfare Centres in Jiri and Rumjatar. Our centre in Jiri has been badly damaged and is no longer inhabitable. Resulting landslides have blocked access to the region.

Patrol teams will be redeployed to assist with these new crisis areas, distributing emergency packs and medical support. Despite yesterday’s earthquake, our teams are pressing on with work in the field.

Soldiers from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers are continuing their current operation in the Gorkha district, distributing relief aid and assessing damage as we plan for the rehabilitation phase.

Nepali citizens are determined to rebuild their lives

Tuesday 12 May

A further major earthquake (magnitude 7.4) struck Nepal today with its epicentre in the Everest region. Early reports indicate dozens more citizens have died with over 1000 injured.

There is substantial damage to property, including in Kathmandu. Our Welfare Centre in Jiri has also suffered significant damage. All GWT and Brigade of Gurkhas staff are accounted for. Further reports will follow tomorrow.

Our field team is currently preparing a further 2000 emergency packs for distribution to earthquake victims.

Villagers attempt to clear the destruction of their former homes

Monday 11 May

We regret to inform that the number of fatalities among Gurkha veterans and widows has risen to 12, with a further 10 seriously injured.

384 veterans or widows have seen their homes completely destroyed or seriously damaged while a further 186 have suffered minor damage.

So far only one GWT-built school has been reported as severely damaged with 15 suffering minor damage, along with five of our water projects. These relatively low counts are a testament to the quality of construction.

Ex-Gurkha Sanbahadur and his wife Birmaya in their ruined village of Barpak

Friday 08 May

Our 17 patrol teams on the ground have already distributed over 500 emergency packs in isolated regions, providing crucial relief for many who lost everything in the earthquake. A further 200 packs are currently being delivered.

80 soldiers from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers are arriving at our headquarters in Nepal. Over the coming period, they will offer essential support to GWT activities, especially the provision of emergency shelter with the monsoon approaching. Further troops from the Royal Gurkha Rifles battalion based in Brunei will also reinforce our efforts.

The total raised for our Earthquake Response Fund so far now stands at £950,000.

Our staff are working to ensure that Gurkha pensioners receive essential medication

Thursday 07 May

Our Earthquake Response Fund has received an exceptional level of support over the last 10 days. Thanks to the generosity of corporate partners, trusts, other service charities and above all the British public, the total raised stands at over £800,000 and is growing every day.

Since the disaster, the UK has donated more to Nepal than any other nation. Undoubtedly, this is due in no small part to our appreciation for a country that has been our staunch ally for the last 200 years, and one that has produced countless loyal servicemen to the British Crown.

nternational support is essential if Nepal is to rebuild its shattered homes

Wednesday 06 May

With many elderly Gurkha veterans and widows suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, the Trust provides free repeat prescriptions. Much of this life-saving medication is now lost under mounds of rubble – our teams are working hard to ensure that all patients receive their required medicine.

See below an example of the emergency packs that our teams are distributing to those in need. Each pack costs around £33 and includes:

  • Tarpaulin & cord
  • Blanket
  • Ground mats
  • Dry food (noodles/biscuits)
  • Biscuits
  • Cooking utensils

GWT emergency pack for earthquake victims

Tuesday 05 May

The total number of tremors with magnitude 4.0 or higher has now reached 128 since last Saturday’s earthquake.

The number of confirmed fatalities among Gurkha veterans and their families stands at 10, with further 9 serious injuries and many minor injuries.

305 reports of house damage received so far, of which at least 237 are for “Complete Destruction” or “Substantial Damage”. The list for “Minor Damage” is extensive. 3 of our water projects are reported damaged and 9 schools; investigations are ongoing.

The numbers are continue to grow but we are responding. We’ve begun the distribution of 200 emergency packs with a further 300 to follow. Our teams are still on the ground, helping wherever they can.

GWT staff giving supplies and cash grant to a Gurkha veteran

Monday 04 May

Phase 1 of the national and international relief effort (Search & Rescue) has ended and the focus has shifted to Phase 2: Recovery & Stability Operations. Power, internet and telecomms have been largely restored in most of Kathmandu but many people are leaving the Kathmandu Valley to join their families in less-affected areas. On 28 April alone around 300,000 people left the Valley by road. Aftershocks, landslides and weather continue to hamper movement.

We are implementing an extensive patrol programme using resources redeployed from other areas of the country: six patrols in support of Area Welfare Centre (AWC) Gorkha; three in support of AWC Lamjung; others in Dhading in support of AWC Jiri and AWC Bagmati.

AWC Tanahun has been made available to DFID as a forward operating base. The UK response also includes a number of assets from the serving Brigade of Gurkhas; they are a welcome addition and where possible will work alongside GWT staff. AWC Gorkha is working alongside a contingent of 80 members of the Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police Force and serving Gurkha soldiers sent as part of the UK’s response to the disaster. Teams in Bagmati and Jiri are working closely with the Kadoorie Aid Association with a focus on the Dhading area. It is clear that damage extends well beyond the immediate areas of concern to include all of our Welfare Centres.

We are in the process of procuring emergency packs comprising tentage/tarpaulin for shelter, food and cooking utensils for delivery to those in urgent need, including dependants of serving Gurkhas.

We are immensely grateful for of the amazing response from our supporters. Donations to our Earthquake Response Fund now exceed £500,000.

A child in the remote and devastated Gorkha district treated by a GWT doctor

Sunday 03 May

Very sadly, we have to report that the number of Gurkha veterans or their widows who have died in the earthquake has risen to 9. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this terrible time.

In addition to the 3 water projects that are damaged that we learnt of yesterday, we have now heard that 6 of our schools are damaged. With 1,400 water projects and 128 schools to check on, it will be some time before we get the full picture.

We have now received 116 reports of homes being damaged, of which 67 are either substantially damaged or completely destroyed. New reports are coming in every day.

Our teams are currently working in the villages of Gorkha district, the western part of Dhading district, the eastern and north eastern areas of Lamjung district, the villages in the Pyarjung area, the Trishuli areas on the borders of Nuwakot and Rashuwa districts northwest of Kathmandu. A further team is being sent to Dhading district tomorrow morning.

Makeshift shelters such as these will not hold up to the impending monsoon

Saturday 02 May

A 5.1 aftershock today caused further damages to properties including our Welfare Centre in Gorkha. We’ve had 8 reports of complete destruction / serious structural damages and over 30 reports of minor to significant structural damage to houses belonging to Gurkha veterans (please note reports of damages to houses of serving soldiers not included).

There have also been 3 reports of damaged water project damages received to date with further investigations ongoing. The spread of disease post-disaster is often more deadly than the disaster itself – we must ensure access to clean water as much as possible.

We currently have 8 mobile teams in the field with a further 5 deploying on 03 May. The original teams will return to base to restock before heading out again. We’re sorry to report that the number of fatalities among the ex-Gurkha community stands at 7.

GWT doctor, Dr Ram Shah, is surrounded by desperate citizens in every village

Friday 01 May

The government has improved the distribution of relief materials to earthquake victims however relief aid had yet to reach the villagers.

Many homeless and desperate survivors have left their villages to less affected places for food and shelter. AWC Gorkha has reported that near the epicentre entire villages and settlements have been destroyed at Samrang, Mathar (Gyachowk) and Sourpani. 95% of houses are destroyed in Barpak and the other 5% are badly damaged.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has informed that more than 6,000 are dead and close to 14,000 injured so far. Around 150,000 houses  have been destroyed with another 140,000 partially damaged.

The devastated village of Barpak which was at the epicentre

Thursday 30 April

Although it is six days since the earthquake, after-tremors continue to be felt. Weather conditions are not good and hamper any form of movement into the worst affected areas. Nonetheless, a sizeable contingent of the Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police Force has arrived in Gorkha and linked up with our staff.

Reports are coming back from our mobile teams of villages utterly devastated by the disaster. So far, most of these citizens have received no outside aid. They are grateful for whatever we can provide.

A Gurkha widow and daughter-in-law outside her destroyed home

Wednesday 29 April

Mobile teams have been dispatched into the regions surrounding the Welfare Centres as the beginning of a longer outreach programme. Gorkha, the area worst affected, has been reinforced with four teams. A further team is working in support of Lamjung and another at Jiri to enable a review of the Dhading area which we know has been badly affected.

They have taken with them as much food, water, tarpaulins and medicines as they are able to distribute. They have also taken money for cash grants to impoverished ex-Gurkhas.

Today we received the unhappy confirmation that one Gurkha veteran and one widow are among the fatalities. The list is sadly expected to grow over the coming days.

A Gurkha widow with a GWT doctor outside her devastated home

Tuesday 28 April

Further reinforcements are sent to the worst hit areas. Staff have been preparing to set out on longer missions to reach some of the remote rural villages that have received no outside help.

The mobile teams include ex-Gurkha Welfare Officers, doctors, nurses, porters and transport support. They will provide emergency aid, in particular medical treatment, to stricken and isolated villagers while gathering situation reports for the wider relief efforts and checking on Gurkha pensioners. For now, aid efforts continue in the areas around our Welfare Centres.

A mobile team preparing to depart from our Welfare Centre in Gorkha

Monday 27 April

Reports have begun to come in from Gurkha veterans and widows whose houses have been damaged. In Kathmandu, around 50 citizens have sought shelter in our Welfare Centre. At our most damaged centres in Gorkha, Lamjung and Jiri, staff also have to camp outside.

Redeployed staff have begun to arrive at their destinations. Teams have been begun trekking out to provide emergency relief in the areas around their welfare centres and gather information on affected areas to prioritise the aid response.

An injured veteran receives medical attention at our Welfare Centre in Jiri

Sunday 26 April

The terrible extent of the tragedy has become clearer, with rescue efforts underway in Kathmandu. International disaster response organisations have arrived in country. Aftershocks continue periodically.

All GWT staff have been reported safe although there is structural damage to a number of its buildings throughout the country. Additional staff, notably doctors and nurses, have begun redeploying to the most heavily affected areas. Landslides and damaged infrastructure hinder progress.

General Sir Peter Wall, Colonel Commandment of the Brigade of Gurkhas and Chairman of our Board of Trustees, sends a message to those affected:

“On behalf of the Gurkha family everywhere please accept our deepest condolences for the tragic consequences of this terrible earthquake… We in the Brigade and in The Gurkha Welfare Trust stand ready to do whatever is needed. Meanwhile the people of Nepal are in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.”

Damage to a GWT building in Kathmandu

Saturday 25 April

At around 1200 NST, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, with its epicentre in the Gorkha district. It has left swathes of destruction throughout the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding areas, destroying several ancient sites and causing thousands of casualties.

With communications and power heavily affected, our field team is attempting to establish the status of its staff and facilities. Most are spending the night outside, fearful of continuing aftershocks.

Devastation wrought by the earthquake

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