Several have asked about the impact of the recent earthquake on brethren in Nepal and on the work there. Here is a report complied from various news sources and from contacts with brethren in Nepal. The information is based on reports up to Monday, April 27.
Nepal is located along a very active fault zone where devastating earthquakes have been a regular part of history. The fault zone marks the line where the Indian Tectonic Plate and the Mainland Asia Plate crush together. The uplift along this crush of tectonic plates elevates the Himalaya Mountains.
The earliest legends of the Kathmandu Valley describe the lush valley as once being a huge freshwater lake that emptied when an earthquake cracked a mountainous "dam" and allowed the lake to drain. More recently, in 1934, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake totally destroyed the cities of the Kathmandu Valley.
The Kathmandu Valley now holds 2.5 Million+ people. By crowding so many into such a small, poverty-stricken area, Kathmandu is ripe for a major earthquake disaster. On their best days, the people live hand to mouth with all necessities of life (food, fuel, water) totally dependant on the flow of goods from outside the city. Disrupted by the quake, the people immediately experienced acute shortages of food, fuel, and water. People are living in the streets because they fear remaining in damaged buildings during on-going aftershocks.
A 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal at about noon last Saturday (about 1 AM Saturday our time). By comparison, this earthquake was 16 times more powerful than the quake that shattered Haiti in 2010. Aftershocks continue, some as strong as 6.6, and it is feared that the disaster has not run its course.
The quake's epicenter was some 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. The entire valley of Kathmandu and its 2.5 million people were included in the primary area of the quake's destructive force. More than 3,000 dead have already been counted. Contact with Nepal's remote countryside has not yet been reestablished. Emergency aid workers fear a region-wide total of over 100,000 casualties.
Matching the quake's intensity was its vast geographical reach. The quake claimed lives in northern India, in Tibet, in Bangladesh, and among climbers on Mt. Everest. The quake was felt as far west as Lahore, Pakistan, as far south as India's capitol of New Delhi, and north into China.
Many of Kathmandu's ancient Hindu and Buddhist shrines have been leveled. It is being said that the nation has lost its cultural heritage. Many commercial and governmental buildings and private dwellings have also been destroyed. Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, the isolated mountain city's primary outlet to the world, was damaged but has now reopened.
Questionable 3rd-world building practices multiply the deadly impact of quakes. Older building were made of stacked, chalky brick. Newer buildings are made with a concrete (with very little steel) superstructure and with walls made of stacked brick. We have heard that most newer building suffered superstructure cracking. Many older buildings simply collapsed into a heap of bricks.
Of personal concern are open questions about how the disaster has effected the Nepal School of Bible Studies (NSBS), its students, teachers, and other Nepali Christians. NCBS is located within one-half mile of Tribhuvan Airport.
Power outages are widespread in Kathmandu where infrastructure is primitive at best. This has limited Internet and cell phone contact with Christian friends. We have had only indirect contact with very few of the dear ones we know. Our brethren in East Nepal have been able to keep us updated about conditions in Kathmandu (Central Nepal). Brethren in Kathmandu have been able to contact those in East Nepal who have passed information along to us.
The good news is that there are no reports of injuries or death among the brethren from whom we have received information (note: we have not heard from very many; no one has received reports from outlying areas).
Jerry Golphenne, the American dentist who leads the work in Nepal, is reported to be well.
Gajendra Deshar, the Nepali director of the work, is also reported to be well.
The students in the school of preaching are well, but are sleeping outside the school building. We have not received any reports about the structural condition of the rented school building.
Christian hearts of compassion naturally react to disasters such as this by asking, "What can we do?" At this point, there is no clear answer to that question. There will be, no doubt, a need for assistance, but the best course of action is to wait until we hear from trusted friends on the ground in Nepal.
I suspect that all future aid can be funneled through existing financial structures of the school of preaching and Children of Kathmandu, the children's charity.