By Jennifer Johnson
Worcester, MA— Although almost 7,000 miles away, Worcester, Massachusetts and its Nepalese community have been greatly affected by the devastating earthquake that hit central Nepal this past Saturday.
The earthquake, rated a 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck Nepal in between the capital Kathmandu and the neighboring city of Pokhara on April 25, killing more than 6,000 people and stranding more than 200 climbers from avalanches on the slopes of Mount Everest.
Jaga Koriala, a Worcester State University junior and former Nepal resident, has been in touch with family and friends back in his native country after the disaster took place. Koriala immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 2008 among a population of 60,000 Bhutanese and Nepalese that the US agreed to house from diplomatic turmoil during the time period.
“I’ve kept in touch with my family and they are all alright thankfully,” Koriala said. “Compared to here, it’s so poor over there, it will take much longer to rebuild. I am trying to start a fundraiser to send some money over there to help.”
Koriala is saddened by the news, but like other residents of Nepal, understands that these things happen, especially in their specific geographic location.
Nepal, which is sandwiched between the Tibetan plateau in China and India, is in a spot that is incredibly unstable. The tectonic plate that India sits on is being pushed into the rest of Asia at a rapid pace, creating the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayan mountain range.
Dr. Frank Hall, a professor in the Natural Science and Physics department at WSU, explained that India’s movement creates great tension between the two landmasses and results in earthquakes such as the one that struck Nepal.
“It’s what’s known as a thrust-belt,” Hall said. “As India is coming into Asia, Asia is literally starting to override India—this is known as thrusting. And as Asia is overriding India, India can’t sink, because it’s too buoyant, so you just have these rocks that are trying to push past each other, building up great amounts of pressure which eventually releases —and when it does, the result is an earthquake.”
Phenomenons like this, although difficult to predict, are almost expected due to Nepal’s location geographically.
“The technology to predict things such as these are really not reliable and not that great,” Hall said. “Nepal has always been warned about earthquakes and the damage it would call—due to its location and its infrastructure. Since it isn’t a very wealthy country, the proper materials to withstand earthquakes like this just aren’t an option as they are for the US or Japan.”
Dr. Roberta Kyle, Acting Associate Vice President for Continuing Education and Acting Dean for Graduate Studies adopted her daughter from Nepal in 2005. Although it has been almost 10 years since she has last visited, she still vividly remembers her time and the community of people she met and interacted with.
“It’s a place where people go and really remember their time there — it leaves a mark on them,” Kyle said. “The two religions, Buddhism and Hinduism are both very accepting cultures.”
The destruction, responsible for many lost homes and businesses was also responsible for the destruction of many religious gathering sites.
“The saddest part is the loss of the meeting and common areas of the city,” said Kyle. “This is what brought the community together and where they all assembled and interacted. It’s sad to think that places like this, which have been around for decades, are destroyed and won’t be the same as they were before.”
The United States has donated $10 million in emergency relief funds to help the country rebuild, but most of the sites lost, as Kyle commented, are irreplaceable.
“They are very proud people,” Kyle said. “The driver who picked us from the airport got us from point A to point B, but he took a route that avoided the poor areas, because he didn’t want us to see that part of his country. They are also very forgiving. They accept that life is hard, they face adversity, sigh, hold up their hands and say ‘ke garne’ which translates to ‘what to do?’ then turn around and start over.”
Nepal, mostly known for its tourism economy and breathtaking landscape is often overlooked, with media focusing more on Mount Everest than the country itself.
“My daughter sees Nepal in the news and gets excited that it’s being talked about and recognized. She understands the damage that has been done, and we have been actively donating even in years prior to the earthquake,” Kyle said. “It’s really important that she recognize her culture. I haven’t brought her back there yet, but intend to when she is older.”
Among other schools and companies that are fundraising, Clark University held a candlelight vigil in homage to the victims and their families this past Thursday, April 30. The University president, David Angel spoke at the event and unveiled the “Nepal Relief Fund” raising money for short term and long term projects to help the country rebuild. You can donate through their “Go Fund Me” project at http://www.gofundme.com/ClarkNepalFund
“It was fantastic, there were hundreds of candles, and a lot of people,” Koriala said. “It was very emotional, and moving. The Clark President had a lot of nice things to say after they played the Nepal national anthem in respect.”
In addition to other local businesses funding the cause, the Nu Cafe also will be donating 15 percent of their sales from 12-3 p.m. on Saturday May 2.
Pictures taken by Brock Bowen