Nepal earthquake survivors turn to rebuilding homes and lives

Ten days after the 7.8 magnitude quake, many people were still searching debris for the bodies of loved ones.

People being rescued from rubble in Kathmandu, Nepal after a devestating earthquake. Picture: AFP.

KATHMANDU - Six years ago, Paru Shrestha's family tore down their old home in the Nepali town of Sankhu and replaced it with a modern, five-storey house. It probably saved their lives.

On 25 April, a devastating earthquake killed over 7,700 people and flattened towns and villages across central Nepal, including most of Sankhu's fine old buildings.

But Shrestha's no-frills home stood cracked yet intact among the rubble and dust of neighbouring buildings.

"If this was an old house, we'd all be gone," said Shrestha, a 28-year-old office worker in the nearby capital Kathmandu.

Ten days after the 7.8 magnitude quake, many people were still searching debris for the bodies of loved ones, or struggling to recuperate from injury and trauma.

Many surveyed their wrecked communities and wondered how they would ever rebuild.

Survivors across the Himalayan nation expressed gratitude for international relief workers and the local soldiers who sped to their aid in the disaster's wake.

Now many fret that foreigners may not stay long enough to help with the equally daunting task of resurrecting homes and livelihoods, while the Nepalese government's reputation for inefficiency and graft is a further cause for concern.


Nepal's prime minister pledged on Friday to repair public buildings, schools and infrastructure within two years of the 7.8 earthquake that struck the country last month.

"The government will reconstruct damaged public buildings, roads, schools, hospitals, telecom facilities, power houses, and colleges in two years," Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said in an address to parliament.

He also said the government would provide loans of up to $25,000 at an interest rate of 2 percent for the reconstruction of private homes.

The announcement comes after the country's worst earthquake in more than 80 years, shortly before noon on 25 April.

At least 7,903 people were killed, nearly 18,000 injured, and more than 541,000 buildings damaged.

The government said the cost of the first phase of reconstruction would be $2 billion and it had set aside $200 million towards that.

For the balance, the government has appealed for donations from foreign countries, aid agencies and Nepali people themselves.

Koirala said authorities would prepare estimates of the full cost of reconstruction once the extent of the damage has been ascertained. Nepal is planning to convene a donors' meeting shortly to request aid for reconstruction.

On Friday, aid groups were still trying to reach many remote communities with relief supplies by air and by road to ensure food and shelter as the yearly monsoon approached.

Authorities will provide temporary shelter in public buildings to people who do not want to return to their homes, the prime minister said. Religious and historic sites and monuments will be rebuilt in the next five years.