A Cactus customer and chief engineer for Christchurch Earthquake recovery, Jan, has been asked to help out in Nepal. He's been there only a few days but has sent us through several updates. It's great to hear and see what's going on over there first hand from Jan as we don't seem to hear anything through the media anymore. We've hooked him up with some Cactus gear (as a tiny token of helping out) and we'll be following his progress over the next few weeks. Check back here if keen to track Jan's work.
Here's the first update from Jan:
A walk through town indicates that Kathmandu is a busy town and people are getting on with life. In many places, the rubble has been removed and temporary repairs are underway. Walking through the older districts where older brick houses stand the damage from the earthquake is much more telling. Houses are supported by bamboo sticks and houses are riddled with cracks. Some fully collapsed buildings are still present and the smell of decay is in the air. The alleys are very narrow sometimes only 2m wide. People, motorbikes and incredibly some cars try to negotiate these narrow passages. Houses either side are four to six stories high. Not the ideal place to be in an earthquake. There is the occasional collapsed multi-storey house. People of all ages are sorting bricks and stacking those for reuse, and trying to retrieve any undamaged goods, not many remain. I am asking some bystanders what they are looking at a particularly nasty collapsed house that took the neighbouring houses down as well. One family is missing and likely to be still buried in the collapsed house, the chance of rescue is not there but the wider family is hoping to receive the bodies for a funeral. I bade my farewell and it is returned with a cheerful Namaste.
Tomorrow I will be meeting my ERRI team and my local contact for the Forgotten Sherpas Trust for which I brought some much-needed relief goods along from NZ. Thanks to those that have generously donated and helped to organize.
Curry for breakfast! Actually not too bad, but before praise is being given I shall wait at least 24 hours.
After breakfast, I met with Dawa a local guide representing the Forgotten Sherpas Trust. We had a cuppa tea and discussed life after the earthquake. He is already in recovery stage by filling in all the cracks in his home and seeing if there are trekking groups for the autumn season as this spring season was cut short by closing most passes. Things did not help with Everest Base Camp being closed after a massive avalanche and many of the guesthouses on the popular trekking routes collapsed.
After our cuppa, I showed him the 50kg of gear I brought along from NZ. I put out a call and many of our friends and business colleagues have answered. I worked with the Warehouse in Northwood and we purchased several hundred dollars of emergency equipment, clothes, crayons and scrapbooks for kids and water purification, etc. The warehouse gave everything away at a cost - great. AirNZ chucked everything on the conveyor belt wishing their best and it was delivered to Nepal – great service.
Dawa was overwhelmed with gratitude, but he came with a motorbike hoping for only a full shopping bag. But after calling his friend we got all goodies into a very small taxi. They plan to prepare all goods early next week for the long trek to the village. All in all mission complete - thanks to all who donated and helped.
The afternoon I visited a refugee camp and took a recon trip across town, caught up with the Canadian Defence Force working from the Hyatt, and generally found my feet in this buzzing town. The Hyatt funnily a 5-star hotel had across the manicured lawns dozens and dozens of tents with refugees and NGOs. A quite bizarre sight. It actually looked like Everest or Annapurna Base Camps and this confirmed to be more or less correct as most trekking outfits donated their tents and equipment to homeless people. Most tourists did either evacuate or did not make it into the country. This will be the second year running with hardly any summits as a number of peaks are closed for the second year running. This does impact on the local economy. Yesterday's shopping trip indicated that a Mountain Hardware backpack is available for as little as $60, fakes go for $20. The shops literally sit on their goods and no one is buying - or is there one?!
Later I inspected a very large temple as it turned out Dawa is a former monk and offered to take me around and offer local insights. The temple top is very damaged but did not collapse. Guys in high viz jackets balancing on bamboo sticks held together with twine are inspecting the 40m high structure. Could not find a single tag on the 'scaffold' - the view though was amazing! We ate late lunch at a rooftop restaurant to typical Nepalese and Indian tunes (think: cat being tortured).
This evening the work part starts with meeting the GEER team. The guys from the GEER team arrived this afternoon for the Tibetan borderlands inspecting hydropower plants. Incredibly as they piled out of their truck I knew three out of four - a bloody small world of disaster tourism!
And in the local news:
• The government suspended all new building consent work to enable reevaluation of structural designs.
• Geotechnical engineering input will be required for all new multi-storey buildings, but the definition is yet to be found what a multi-storey building is.
• Structural engineers are calling to replace bricks with lightweight alternatives.
• The building code (or what passes for it here) is being reviewed and structures are being assessed against it- introducing the concept of NBS.
• The local government is calling for more cement in the mortar (presumable so the brick walls fall over as a big block the next time around - haven't figured that one out as yet). The wall surrounding the King's palace failed on two sides and local contractors are rebuilding the wall (yes - using the same bricks)
• Sadly many slopes are expected to fail in the upcoming monsoon season and villages are trying to get much-needed supplies through passes and gorges before those are cut off. There are still very many families living in tents and strong winds that come with the monsoon are expected to change this arrangement.