Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Nepal marks one year since quake as frustration mounts

Some four million survivors are still living in temporary shelters one year on, with frustration against the government mounting.
Nepalese activists of Bibeksheel Nepali party stage a protest as they march towards the prime minister's office to hand over a piece of tarpaulin to mark the one year anniversary of devastating earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, 24 April 2016. The youth activist chant slogan holding various placards asking the Nepalese government about the status of reconstruction and relief for the earthquake victims. Narendra Shrestha/EPA
Nepalese activists of Bibeksheel Nepali party stage a protest as they march towards the prime minister's office to hand over a piece of tarpaulin to mark the one year anniversary of devastating earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, 24 April 2016. The youth activist chant slogan holding various placards asking the Nepalese government about the status of reconstruction and relief for the earthquake victims. Narendra Shrestha/EPA

Kathmandu // Nepal held memorial services on Sunday for the thousands killed in a massive earthquake one year ago, as victims still huddled in tents across the country accused the government of failing them.

Prime minister KP Sharma Oli laid flowers at a destroyed 19th-century tower in Kathmandu, where hundreds gathered to remember the devastating quake that ripped through the impoverished Himalayan nation.

Buddhist monks in maroon robes held prayers at the site of a popular temple destroyed in the 7.8-magnitude quake that killed nearly 9,000 people.

Some four million survivors are still living in temporary shelters one year on, according to aid agencies, with frustration against the government mounting.

Around 100 protesters – including victims of the disaster – marched towards government offices in the capital, demanding faster reconstruction efforts.

Chhuldim Samden, a 21-year-old student, said she was fed up with waiting for help as she and her family struggle to survive in a shack in the capital.

“Even after one year, so many people are staying in tents, we are still living in a shack,” Ms Samden said as she took part in the protest.

“Where did all the donations go?”

Fears of quake-triggered landslides forced Ms Samden, her parents and 17 other families from her village in the devastated Sindhupalchowk district to walk for two days until they eventually found shelter in Kathmandu.

Although international donors pledged US$4.1 billion (Dh15.06bn) to aid Nepal’s recovery, political wrangling over control of the funds and delays in setting up the national reconstruction authority mean most victims have received nothing beyond an initial small payout.

Following a storm of criticism, the government has vowed to kickstart reconstruction of schools and hospitals, and speed up distribution of the first $500 instalment of a $2,000 payout promised to homeless survivors.

Trekking guide Govinda Timilsina said his life has been on hold since losing his house. He has been unable to rebuild his home himself because of the government’s complex rules for qualifying for quake aid.

“The government rules were so confusing, we were scared we would not get compensation if we started work on our own,” said Mr Timilsina.

The disaster struck on April 25 but commemorations were being held on Sunday – the quake anniversary according to the Nepali calendar.

It wrecked infrastructure across the hardest-hit regions of Nepal, damaging more than 1,200 health centres and severing a lifeline for remote, rural communities.

Nearly 8,000 schools were destroyed or left unsafe, leaving almost one million children without classrooms.

Tired of waiting, some 110,000 families have moved back into homes that are still at risk of collapse. More than 31,000 victims have also rebuilt their own houses, taking out loans or turning to charities for help.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: April 24, 2016 04:00 AM

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