At 11:56 am Saturday, April 25th 2015, the Kathmandu valley and surrounding areas were devastated by a 7.8 earthquake. The death toll mounts daily, so by the time you read this, today’s count of 7300 lives lost will be heartbreakingly out of date. The country’s economy has left a vulnerable, impoverished population in the countryside without aid of its young men, who have emigrated to Gulf states for labor and are unable to return due to feudal government work policies of those governments. So elderly villagers have been left to dig their dead out of the rubble, with aid supplies backlogged at the airport due to government red tape.
I had dreaded this day for years. Back in 2001, I had read in a New York Times article that Nepal was overdue for a major earthquake. This article worried me, because so much of Kathmandu was built with brick construction.
A few weeks later, the morning of August 28th – also on a Tuesday morning – I awoke from an early morning nightmare. I had seen people buried in mountains of bricks and rubble. Panicked, I picked up the phone and called the Hotel Norbu Linka in Thamel where we stayed when in Nepal, and asked the staff if everything was OK. Everything was fine. But two weeks later to the hour, I would awake to news of September 11th, 2001. That was also a Tuesday morning.
Things had changed so much in these 14 years. By the time I got the news of the Nepal quake, I could log into Google’s People Finder app for the Nepal earthquake and knew instantly that my most reliable supplier and a good friend were marked as safe. But it took days to learn the fate of others. I could not reach Seejan Basnet, my account rep for our shipping company, who was off-line on Skype. For years, he was the one who arranged for our shipments and prepared my statements. But business relationships are still relationships, and all weekend I was hammering away on Skype, Google and email trying to get any information I could. Finally, early Monday morning, my phone flared up.
Like so many thousands of other Nepalis, his family’s home was completely destroyed. What follows are excerpts of four days worth of Skype exchanges, as we struggled to get him and his family out of open fields and into a temporary room. At Seejan’s request, I have corrected some spelling. The rest of the communications are as they happened:
[4/26/2015 2:26:09 PM] Shakti: Are you ok???
[4/27/2015 12:15:27 AM] *** Missed call from seejan basnet. ***
[4/27/2015 12:15:54 AM] *** Missed call from seejan basnet. ***
[4/27/2015 12:16:18 AM] seejan basnet: Im safe
[4/27/2015 12:16:33 AM] seejan basnet: But we lost a lot of lives…..
[4/27/2015 12:16:49 AM] seejan basnet: We are completely lost evthg
[4/27/2015 12:17:08 AM] seejan basnet: Pls pray for us
[4/27/2015 12:17:20 AM] seejan basnet: Tremor still hitting
[4/27/2015 12:17:36 AM] seejan basnet: We all are living outside in field
[4/27/2015 12:17:48 AM] seejan basnet: No home food water medicine
[4/27/2015 12:17:58 AM] seejan basnet: Situation is really bad
[4/27/2015 12:33:41 AM] Shakti: Seejan did everyone at Speedway survive? Is the building still there? I am trying to raise funds to send to disaster relief agencies. Please let me know if sending $$ will help u. I’m praying for u all
[4/27/2015 12:36:09 AM] Shakti: Also please let me know which agencies are helping the most-
[4/27/2015 1:19:28 AM] seejan basnet: One of our staff died today
[4/27/2015 1:19:33 AM] seejan basnet: Other safe
[4/27/2015 1:19:40 AM] seejan basnet: Crying for help
[4/27/2015 1:20:16 AM] seejan basnet: No food water medicine
[4/27/2015 7:58:40 AM] Shakti: I deeply regret your loss, Seejan. I am praying for you and your families. We will do everything we can to raise money to get you aid.
[4/27/2015 9:47:15 PM] seejan basnet: Thk you
[4/27/2015 9:49:29 PM] Shakti: I am sending our a newsletter tonight to 4,500 people asking for financial support to the major disaster relief organizations. Have you started to see some supplies yet?
[4/27/2015 9:49:56 PM] seejan basnet: Not yet
[4/27/2015 9:50:05 PM] seejan basnet: Every thg running out soon
[4/27/2015 9:50:19 PM] seejan basnet: Now serious issue is health problem
[4/27/2015 9:50:50 PM] seejan basnet: Epidemic disease like diarrhea fever n flu increasing
[4/27/2015 9:52:35 PM] Shakti: President just authorized 10 million in disaster relief for Nepal. there are many organizations like Red Cross UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, AmeriCares, etc who have teams there already. Help is coming.
[4/27/2015 9:58:52 PM] Shakti: Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you, Seejan.
[4/27/2015 9:59:29 PM] Shakti: Please have faith.
[4/27/2015 10:02:15 PM] seejan basnet: Ok shakti ….
[4/27/2015 10:03:01 PM] seejan basnet: Currently my wife’s house is completely damage and 4 children n two old age woman compel to live out in open sky
[4/27/2015 10:03:17 PM] seejan basnet: If u cld do some thg pls that wld be great
[4/27/2015 10:03:50 PM] Shakti: How can I help?
[4/27/2015 10:03:53 PM] seejan basnet: Its marter (sic) for lived one than the dead
[4/27/2015 10:04:25 PM] seejan basnet: Any fund more or less to rebuild temporary shelter
[4/27/2015 10:04:31 PM] Shakti: If I send you some money Western Union, will it help you?
[4/27/2015 10:04:47 PM] seejan basnet: Jst my plead dnt take it negativly
[4/27/2015 10:05:02 PM] seejan basnet: We have lost evythg
[4/27/2015 10:05:15 PM] Shakti: OK send me your Western Union details. We will send money tomorrow.
[4/27/2015 10:05:26 PM] seejan basnet: Thank u so much
[4/27/2015 10:05:53 PM] Shakti: Of course. I can’t send much but I will do my best. How are you re-charging your phone?
[4/27/2015 10:08:07 PM] seejan basnet: Any amount i would be thankful
[4/27/2015 10:08:27 PM] seejan basnet: Walking 5 km to chg battery
[4/27/2015 10:09:32 PM] Shakti: Ok no phone call then. Save your battery. Is your dog ok?
[4/27/2015 10:09:55 PM] seejan basnet: Dog ok both
[4/27/2015 10:10:04 PM] seejan basnet: Actually they saved us
[4/27/2015 10:10:20 PM] seejan basnet: They were one who noticed it first
[4/27/2015 10:10:58 PM] Shakti: Good news amidst so much bad.
[4/27/2015 10:11:28 PM] Shakti: How did you dogs save you?
[4/27/2015 10:12:33 PM] seejan basnet: They bark with untensionly (sic) we cld know somethg bad going to happen
[4/27/2015 10:12:37 PM] seejan basnet: We were alert
[4/27/2015 10:12:43 PM] seejan basnet: Alert save us
[4/27/2015 10:13:03 PM] Shakti: Good dogs! 🙂
[4/27/2015 10:13:17 PM] seejan basnet: They are
[4/27/2015 10:17:00 PM] Shakti: OK – one last question. Did Speedway survive? Is the buidling o?
[4/27/2015 10:17:04 PM] Shakti: OK?
[4/27/2015 10:17:24 PM] seejan basnet: Building ok
[4/27/2015 10:17:29 PM] seejan basnet: One staff dead
[4/27/2015 10:17:35 PM] seejan basnet: Buried alive
[4/27/2015 10:17:42 PM] seejan basnet: Dead after a day
[4/27/2015 10:19:07 PM] Shakti: It is so tragic. Was it someone I know?
[4/27/2015 10:19:21 PM] seejan basnet: He was new
[4/27/2015 10:19:31 PM] seejan basnet: 21 year of age in warehouse
[4/27/2015 10:21:03 PM] Shakti: I am so grateful the rest of you survived. OK I’m going to sign off and get this newsletter out. We are offering to give 5% of all singing bowl sales to disaster relief. I hope to raise more $$. I will be in touch tomorrow. Keep the faith! Good bye for now.
[4/27/2015 10:22:00 PM] seejan basnet: Thk you and good bye
[4/27/2015 10:22:04 PM] seejan basnet: Namaste
[4/27/2015 11:16:36 PM] Shakti: is this your family?
[4/27/2015 11:16:44 PM] seejan basnet: Yes
[4/27/2015 11:17:06 PM] seejan basnet: Mother in law n children
[4/27/2015 11:17:50 PM] seejan basnet: Water shelter n medicine 1st need
[4/27/2015 11:18:03 PM] seejan basnet: No government representative till now
[4/27/2015 11:18:20 PM] seejan basnet: So i m asking help directly from donor
[4/27/2015 11:19:24 PM] Shakti: what is your email
[4/27/2015 11:19:46 PM] seejan basnet: Seejan.email@example.com
[4/27/2015 11:27:12 PM] Shakti: I heard it was raining – is that not true?
[4/27/2015 11:28:27 PM] seejan basnet: It was raining but not continuously
[4/27/2015 11:28:36 PM] seejan basnet: With pause
[4/27/2015 11:30:12 PM] Shakti: good thing
[4/27/2015 11:32:59 PM] seejan basnet: Specially children are at vulnerable
Tuesday April 28th, after some delays with Western Union due to difficulties on the Nepal side, I was able to wire a donation to Seejan. By then, the family was living in a tent encampment, alongside hundreds of displaced Nepalis riding out the aftershocks.
[4/29/2015 8:48:44 AM] seejan basnet: I got money and hand over to my mother in law she was very happy…..She was very pleased to you
[4/29/2015 8:48:57 AM] seejan basnet: She insisted me to show your pic
[4/29/2015 8:49:35 AM] seejan basnet: She thank u a lot
[4/29/2015 8:52:03 AM] Shakti: I hope this gift makes it a little easier for your family. Please let me know what happens with your family next. Is there other shelter you can find?
4/29/2015 8:55:00 AM] seejan basnet: She was very happy how outer world reacted to her need
[4/29/2015 8:55:04 AM] Shakti: How can we get you out of that tent, Seejan?
[4/29/2015 8:55:27 AM] seejan basnet: Actual its nightmare to get fund or some aid from nepal government
[4/29/2015 8:55:47 AM] seejan basnet: There is corrupt people they use it for themselves
[4/29/2015 8:56:12 AM] seejan basnet: Still im trying to collect fund
[4/29/2015 8:56:20 AM] seejan basnet: Fund still far not enough
[4/29/2015 11:16:16 AM] Shakti: Let me know how much you need to rent a room in a flat so you can get out of the tent.
[4/29/2015 11:16:27 AM] Shakti: I will try to raise the $$ for you
[4/29/2015 12:48:58 PM] seejan basnet: Ok i will search room tomorrow
[4/29/2015 12:49:16 PM] seejan basnet: Let you know if i get some
[4/29/2015 12:49:20 PM] Shakti: Have a good night Seejan! 🙂
[4/29/2015 12:49:33 PM] seejan basnet: Thk you very much again
[4/29/2015 12:49:43 PM] Shakti: You’re so welcome
[4/29/2015 12:50:25 PM] seejan basnet: Good nite
[4/29/2015 12:50:36 PM] seejan basnet: Actually its late in nepal
[4/29/2015 12:50:44 PM] seejan basnet: We need to sleep
[4/29/2015 12:51:11 PM] seejan basnet: But this after shock compel us to wake whole night up
[4/29/2015 12:52:40 PM] Shakti: Oh. I can imagine the body is on alert. Try to rest your mind then. Your family is safe. Everything is going to be all right.
[4/29/2015 12:53:33 PM] seejan basnet: Every asleep im the one guarding
[4/29/2015 12:54:00 PM] seejan basnet: Every one asleep…
The next morning, I heard that Seejan had rented a room about 500 meters from his mother-in-law’s property. Between widespread property damage and the crush of homeless families looking for shelter, the laws of supply and demand had more than tripled rents in the area. It is difficult for the family to make the adjustment to living in one room, but they are grateful to have it. Max and Lusi, the family dogs, are staying with Seejan’s brother for now.
But Seejan’s family needs help. He has drained his account and does not make enough to build temporary housing, which he estimates would cost about $2,000.00. If you wish to help Seejan and his family get back on their feet, please donate via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Seejan” in the notes.
We will be updating this blog regularly until we can help him build temporary housing. We are grateful for any support you can give.