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Earthquake survivors still await govt grant

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Sindhupalchok, July 24, 2016: As the monsoon is at its peak, loss of lives and properties caused by water-induced disasters is creating media headlines. Amid the threat of floods and landslides, earthquake victims of Sindhupalchowk district are struggling to survive in temporary makeshift tents.

A Sindhupalchowk local, Ratna Bahadur Thapa, said he has been living under the constant fear of natural calamities as the monsoon rain rages. Forty-five-year-old Thapa lives in a small hut in Kadambas VDC- 5 of Kodari, Sindhupalchowk like most of his fellow earthquake survivors.

Thapa said he considers himself lucky as he survived the devastating earthquake of April last year. The temblor killed approximately 9,000 people while over 3,000 were from Sindhupalchowk district alone. The quake toll in his village was 23. With the government nowhere in sight to provide relief to the quake victims, Thapa managed to build a small hut on his own by using the debris of his house which was damaged in the quake.

But to add to the woes of quake survivors like Thapa, who have managed to live amidst adversities for 15 months since the disaster, the swollen Bhotekoshi River that merges with Sunkoshi at Barhabise has become a bane for the quake survivors of Sindhupalchowk.

Thapa said the villagers have been spending days amid fear of being buried by landslides as mudslide-related incidents have become common with the swollen river continuing to sweep away its banks.

He said the fear of landslides haunts him all the time as he remembers the Jure landslide that occurred in the district on August 2, 2014, killing 156 people. Jure lies some 15 kilometres away from Kadambas VDC. Meanwhile, Tatopani, Barhabise and Liping have been adversely affected as floodwater washed away some 80 houses in the areas.

Bishnu Maya Khatri, 65, of Sanghachowk-1, Sukute, said water level in the Bhotekoshi River had increased to such an alarming level that she had to spend a night on a ground above her house due to the fear of being swept away some two weeks ago.

Though the water level in the river has slightly gone down now as compared to a week ago, Khatri said she still does not feel safe as the monsoon rain continues.

Sindhupalchowk residents rued the concerned authorities failure to take measures to control possible water-induced disasters. Construction of embankment along the Bhotekoshi River would be a great relief, the locals said. They also expressed concern over the ongoing haphazard sand mining in their locality.

Suntali KC, 52, of the same locality was displaced a few years ago after the Bhotekoshi River eroded her land. She said,”After our house was swept away in the flood, we are forced to live in a public land.”

Amid various sufferings, quake survivors of Sindhupalchowk are eagerly waiting for the government-pledged reconstruction grant. The government has announced Rs 200,000 as reconstruction grant to each family whose houses were damaged in last year’s earthquake. The National Reconstruction Authority formed to carry out post-quake reconstruction works has pledged to deposit the first instalment of the housing grant in the bank accounts of eligible quake survivors by the upcoming Dashainfestival.

Though the quake survivors continue to live in temporary shelters, the swollen rivers are adding to their woes. “We cannot leave our locality, as we have nowhere else to go,” says Ratna Bahadur.

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