Updates from Dr. Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa currently in Thame:
May 12th’s 7.4 earthquake and aftershocks that hit Nepal have badly affected the Solukhumbu region including Thame Valley. The epicenter was in Dolakha, less than 50 km northwest of Khumbu this time, and while there have been no reported deaths from the Khumbu yet, the death-toll and number of injuries across Solukhumbu, Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Ramechhap and Rolwaling areas are increasing.
The Thame Valley and surrounding areas were shaken badly and we have compiled information from friends and family in the area:
Phone and power lies to Upper Thame have been severed due to damage to a local substation. The Khumbu Bijuli Company खुम्बु बिजुली कम्पनी and their technicians are assessing the damage and we hope it can be fixed soon. Phone and power in Thamo and other areas is working. One of the biggest fears is that the damage to the Thame Hydroelectricity structure which will leave the local villages without lighting and cooking energy.
The impact of the last earthquake has been pretty bad. There have been no deaths reported from the second earthquake but some injuries. In the village of Marlung at the head of the Thame Valley, 8 monks and helpers were attending a funeral ritual of an elder man who may have died of earthquake-related sickness and difficulties. The earthquake struck during the ceremony, and the walls of the home started crumbling around them – trapping anything the family had left. Luckily, the monks and the family were outside for a short break after lunch. The funeral rites were moved to a tent and continued. No one was hurt.
Houses that withstood the April 25th earthquake were damaged further, and those badly damaged then have suffered even more. The few fences and walls that people had managed to repair fell again which has made rebuilding/repair efforts difficult and has wasted resources. Some parts of the trail to Thame from Namche and above are damaged but it is possible to get around. While some homes are dangerous to occupy, many community members feel that they have lived in these homes all their lives and are unwilling to move out into temporary shelters. Other community members do not have the choice, as many are now without homes that survived in the first earthquake and are continuing to sleep outdoors in makeshift shelters and tents.
It is important to note that there is an emotional significance to house/home as well as community structures like the Stupa or the Monastery, which is why it is important to ensure that the rebuilding process is culturally sensitive and sustainable. The Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund’s mission includes rebuilding important community structures to increase community resilience against natural disasters in future.
Yesterday on May 13th trail traffic between Thamo and Thame came to a stop because of rumors that an even bigger aftershock/earthquake was coming at midday between 12 and 2 pm. Villagers sat gathered on open fields away from risks of rockfall. They felt many minor aftershocks but nothing significant. This happened all over Nepal yesterday, creating fear and paranoia and distracting people from their other activities.
The emotional impact of the latest earthquake is huge: people were beginning to normalize and try and rebuild but now are feeling demoralized and upset. The emotional toil of the earthquakes and their aftermath is affecting the Thame community severely.
The recently built community building - Khumbu Mountain Centre in Upper Thame (built with the support of the local Buffer Zone, The Mountain Institute and EcoHimal) previously served a valuable function as emergency shelter, storage for relief and household belongings, and meeting venue in upper Thame. The buildings withstood the earlier quakes but were badly damaged by the May 12th earthquake. Pictures: http://on.fb.me/1Jfc2wO
Please read the observations from one of our community members that reveal that villagers demonstrated incredible level of resourcefulness, courage, and cooperation after the first earthquake. http://on.fb.me/1e1k8gq
Thangte Village (Upper Thame) formed an 11-member committee (pictured) to work on management of earthquake relief, community awareness/ mobilization and most importantly to work on long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction of the village. Dr. Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa, chairman of the Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund, facilitated the formation of the committee. It is expected that this will be possible for the other 9 Wards within the Namche V.D.C.
Please do consider helping the rebuilding of the Thame Valley Community through the Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund! Proud of all locals who are showing great courage and determination through this tough time!