Nepal earthquake: Search and rescue operation over, tough reconstruction awaits

An earthquake victim, carrying wood recovered from a collapsed house, walks along a street near the debris of collapsed houses. Picture: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

An earthquake victim, carrying wood recovered from a collapsed house, walks along a street near the debris of collapsed houses. Picture: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Published Nov 6, 2023


By Binod Prasad Adhikari

The Nepal government completed the search and rescue operation on Sunday after a strong earthquake on Friday rattled nine districts, killing over 150 people and damaging infrastructure.

During a visit to the earthquake-affected district, Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha announced the completion of the search and rescue operation, with the focus shifting towards relief operations.

"No one is missing in the search and rescue operation. We have provided proper treatment to all the injured. From today, our focus will shift to those who have lost their homes, whether they are permanently damaged or cracked. We must provide them with tarpaulin, mattresses, blankets, and food," Shrestha told ANI after holding discussions with concerned officials at Jajarkot.

"From today on, we enter the phase of relief efforts; relief materials are being distributed, and the District Disaster Management Committee, through the local representatives, will distribute the relief materials," he added.

Shrestha mentioned that reconstruction and rehabilitation would follow the relief distribution. The November 3 earthquake, whose magnitude was 6.4 on the Richter Scale, is Nepal’s second-strongest in recorded history, after the 2015 earthquake that claimed nearly 10,000 lives and damaged properties worth billions.

After eight years, Nepal has yet to build itself back to the pre-earthquake phase.

Looking at the past, hopes are fading for the victims of the recent earthquake that they would get a new home with government support any time soon.

While the government has announced relief provisions for the families of the deceased, it currently lacks detailed plans for reconstruction. The opposition has called on the government to expedite preparations for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the affected districts and intends to raise the issue in the federal parliament.

"We will raise the issue from all sides to rebuild the damages that have been incurred. We will certainly put pressure on the government on the issue. As the aid has continued to pour in various forms, this would certainly help in reconstruction works," Basudev Ghimire, a Member of Parliament from the opposition CPN-UML told ANI.

The council of ministers, meeting in the capital, Kathmandu, has decided to provide immediate shelter, food, and safety to displaced families and offer $1,500 to the families of those killed in the earthquake as immediate relief.

"Jajarkot, the epicentre of the earthquake, has suffered the highest number of casualties, with 105 people killed. Traditional houses in the area now lie in ruins and rubble. The earthquake, which struck just before midnight, mainly claimed the lives of children and the elderly," Harish Chandra Sharma, Administrative Officer of Jajarkot told ANI.

"Rescue operations, including helicopter mobilization, were carried out in some remote areas. As of the latest data, 105 people lost their lives, and 115 people were injured, with many of them already recovering and critically injured individuals receiving treatment in well-equipped hospitals in Nepalgunj and Surkhet," he added.

On Sunday evening, at nightfall, the locals of Khalanga spread the tarpaulin far and wide to protect themselves from the dew and chilling cold.

The November 3 earthquake which rattled the impoverished hilly district of Jajarkot has damaged 937 houses, while about three thousand have sustained damages, yet to be labelled safe to stay or not.

Displaced residents are using tarpaulins as temporary shelter, providing protection from the chilling cold but the worst is yet to come.