An SFU Surrey student is breathing a sigh of relief after finding out his family members in Nepal are all safe following the devastating earthquake in that country on April 25.
Anish Pokhrel, a masters student in SFU’s Mechatronics engineering program, was at home at his apartment in New Westminster that day when around midnight his cellphone began to light up with numerous email messages and texts from friends and colleagues.
He immediately turned on the news and watched in horror as images of devastation in Nepal, the city of Kathmandu and surrounding areas were flashing across the screen. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake had struck, toppling landmarks, reducing villages to rubble, and triggering mudslides and avalanches.
(The death toll as of Wednesday had reached 7,500).
“I got really scared and I immediately tried to contact my family in Kathmandu, but all lines of communication were down. I couldn’t reach anyone for two or three hours,” said Pokhrel.
Eventually he was able to make contact with his uncle, who confirmed the devastation and gave him graphic details of some of the suffering. Finally, he made contact with his older sister Sarita and her husband and was told they were okay, but that she had been unable to reach their parents who lived 45 minutes away.
Because so many roads were damaged, his sister drove her motorcycle to her parents’ home and found them safe.
Although much of Nepal is heavily damaged, fortunately Pokhrel’s parents’ home was still standing.
“Everyone was living outside for a few days, but I was so relieved they were all okay,” he said. “My parents’ home looks fine from the outside, but they are still afraid (of aftershocks). They are back in the home but only on the first floor so if they have to leave in a hurry, they can get out.”
The plan is to have the home structurally inspected, but that could take time.
Pokhrel’s sister and brother-in-law were also lucky; the apartment they were living in sustained numerous cracks but is still standing. They have since moved into another house close by.
Pokhrel has been helping raise funds for earthquake relief through his school and the Nepalese community, along with attending candlelight vigils held in both Vancouver and Surrey last week.
Donations and help spreading the word are really what the people need right now, he said.
Surrey physician Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji is on his way to Nepal to help care for the injured in the region. Bhurji, a local pediatrician and neonatologist, is heading to the city of Pokhara, 200 kilometres from Kathmandu, near the epicentre of the quake. He’s a veteran of numerous other natural disaster relief missions, including Haiti in 2010 and the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005.
“My main focus will be on premature babies, intensive care needs, newborn needs and children’s health – basically specialized medical care,” he said. “With the monsoon season coming, a lot of pregnant women need help and the suffering will take its toll.”
Bhurji will be working with AMDA (Asian Medical Doctor Association) and Rose Charities to provide volunteer doctors and nurses to assist in the area. He plans on volunteering for three weeks and then his colleague Dr. Collin Young will take his place. The nurses will come for a longer time.
Bhurji’s main goal will be to deal with pediatric infection, dehydration, asthma and newborn care, and the fact he speaks Hindi, which is close to the Nepalese language, should make for easier communication.
“This is what my passion is, to help, to serve basically,” he said.