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Landslide refugees

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

dhading land

After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake flattened his house, Muku Tamang, a 35-year-old farmer from the remote Sertung village of northern Dhading district, built a temporary shelter with a tarpaulin sheet dropped by a helicopter.

Tamang considered himself lucky because all his five family members survived the earthquake that killed 13 people in Sertung alone. “I thought the earthquake just destroyed my house, and I was certain I would rebuild it sooner than later,” he says. But the earthquake turned out to be just a beginning of his hardship.

Monsoon rains this week have triggered landslides on the unstable slopes, burying cropped terraces and houses that had withstood the jolt. Tamang lost most of his farm in a landslide on 15 June.

“There is no way relief supplies would reach my village, so we decided to walk down,” he says. “I was hoping I could feed my family with maize and potatoes that grew on my field but the landslide left me with nothing.”

Tamang’s wife and three children joined an exodus of people displaced by the earthquake and ensuing landslides. They walked down for two days, finally boarded a bus and arrived at the district capital of Dhading Besi.

According to Dhading CDO Basudev Ghimire, villages in Sertung, Tiplung, Jhaplang, Ri and Lapa are threatened by landslides and need urgent evacuation.  More than 550 people from northern Dhading have arrived in the town, and Ghimire says he is trying to help them with tents and shelter..

“Saving people from landslides in this monsoon is a huge challenge,” he says. “But we are trying our best.”

For the past week, the landslide refugees have been living in a tented settlement outside town. “We will have to wait out the rains here,” Tamang says.

Sixty other Tamang families from Sertung are also here, living in tents provided by the Dhading District Disaster Relief Committee and other NGOs.  “Life is not easy here,” Tamang says, “the tent leaks in the rain and the wind threatens to blow it off.”

Tek Tamang, 29, also left Sertung because it was impossible to live there: “The earthquake and landslides destroyed not only our houses but also schools, health posts, water taps and water mills. The government must show us a safe place to relocate.”

Landslides are now emerging as the next big disaster in the 15 mountain districts worst affected by the earthquakes of 25 April and 12 May. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) says the earthquakes have caused more than 3,000 landslides in central Nepal.

Tamang says more families are descending down to Dhading Besi for fear of landslides, and they need more tents, roofing material and food.

The CDO office has a stockpile of tents, food and other emergency relief supplies. But Assistant CDO Nanda Prasad Sharma says the stockpile is meant for emergency cases. “What if we distribute all tents and new landslides displace more families, we have to prepare for contingencies,” he says. The displaced also say they need corrugated roofing sheets because tents don’t keep the rain away.

But Sharma says the CDO office has already distributed tents to the displaced who needed them most in Dhadingbesi. “I don’t think they need more,” he says. “But if more families come there, we can give them tents. But we don’t want to run out of our tent stockpile for future emergencies.”


Om Astha Rai


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5 Responses to “Landslide refugees”

  1. Ravi Raj Kaur on Says:

    They need a safe shelter not a tent.

  2. Sir Dalbhat Gorkha on Says:

    truly tragic situation. thanks for reporting

  3. David Seddon on Says:

    will the proposed reconstruction look ahead and foresee such events in the near future

  4. Sir Dalbhat Gurkha on Says:

    this country lives in the present, we don’t have a concept of the future, near or distant.

  5. Shubhash Wostey on Says:

    They are NOT “refugees,” (which involves crossing an international boundary), but are “survivors” of the disaster!

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