Belfast Telegraph

Mother's agony after uncle dies in Nepal earthquake

Beloved relative killed by falling debris

By Noel McAdam

A Nepalese family living in Northern Ireland have told of the horror of losing a close relative in the devastating earthquake that has killed thousands.

Jayanti Chudal's 75-year-old uncle was struck on the head by a flying brick after attending worship in a Hindu temple as the Kathmandu disaster struck.

Haku Pradhan Maharjan was still alive when he was taken to hospital - but died a few hours later.

"In fact there was no hospital when they got there," Mrs Chudal said at her home in Dunmurry on the outskirts of south Belfast, where she was being comforted by her teenage daughters.

"It had also been hit by the earthquake and people were being treated on the ground outside.

"The doctors were very busy, of course, and they did not get to him in time."

The mother-of-two, who only moved to Northern Ireland two years ago, added that she and her uncle were "very close" and the news of his sudden death was a "big shock" which has left her very shaken.

"He was at temple, he was just coming from the temple when it all happened. There was no warning," she said.

Her daughter Priyanka (19) said: "He had a very bad leg and was unable to run, but the pillar beside where he was just collapsed and a brick hit him on the head."

The deceased man's wife, Pringala Pradhan (68), lives in Darjeeling in India and they have four children, two sons and two daughters, who are safe.

Mrs Chudal's 17-year old daughter Priya added: "She has just not stopped crying since. They are just waiting now for the next (earthquake). So we are very worried."

Mrs Chudal heard the news of her loss from her husband Bikash Chudal as she left work in a city centre shop on Saturday night.

"I did not know how I was going to tell her. We had heard the news earlier in the afternoon and I decided not to tell her right away," he said.

"She found it very, very hard to believe."

More than 2,500 people are dead and Kathmandu, the capital of the mountainous and desperately poor country, is in ruins.

Communications have broken down and overseas aid teams are rushing to the region.

Tens of thousands of Nepalese are sleeping outside in the cold after a number of aftershocks.

Within hours, Mr Chudal and others within the Nepalese community here had decided to join forces to make a direct appeal to the people of Northern Ireland for help.

Yesterday, just a day after news of the Kathmandu crisis hit home, they formed a co-ordination committee which will raise funds to help those affected in Nepal.

The 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at midday on Saturday, less than 50 miles from the capital.

Many relatives were still waiting yesterday to hear confirmation that their families and friends are safe. Phone contact has been virtually non-existent in the city itself.

Laxman Chimariya, who has lived in Belfast since 2006, was able to talk on the telephone yesterday with his mother, who lives with the rest of his family five miles from the city.

"Many, many people have died there," he said.

"Barely a house has been left untouched and many are in ruins, she told me.

"While I was talking to her there was another tremor and I could hear all the screaming. It was terrible."

The 38-year-old said: "Obviously, we are with them all emotionally but we wanted to get together and see if we can be of more practical help."

The meeting elected Naraya Kandel to chair the co-ordinating committee, which immediately asked for people to pray for those caught up in the crisis.

"But we are also asking if people can contribute, no matter how little, because money will be needed to provide not just food but shelter - tents for example," he said.

A fund has been set up at Barclays Bank, with the reference ERF - Earthquake Relief Fund. The sorting code is 20-69-85 and the account number is 23037916.

No reports of dead Britons received by Foreign Office

The Foreign Office has received no reports of Britons being killed or injured in the Nepal earthquake, but said it has helped hundreds of people.

Teams of consular staff in the country have been scouring hospitals and popular tourist hotspots, looking for British nationals who may need assistance.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday announced that 200 Britons had been given practical help by embassy staff.

He said: "There are several hundred British nationals in Nepal at this time of year and we expect that almost certainly some will have been caught up in the earthquakes. But at this moment we have no reports of any British nationals killed or injured."

Fast-tracking for £5m funds to address immediate needs

The Department for International Development has announced it will be providing £5m of humanitarian aid for Nepal. A total of £3m has been released under the Rapid Response Facility to address immediate, on-the-ground needs and £2m has been released to the British Red Cross.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "As the death toll rises and the scale of this devastating earthquake becomes evident, the UK is continuing to do everything it can to help all those affected by this tragedy."

She said that this meant funding could be fast-tracked to aid workers so they can provide desperately needed supplies including clean water, shelter, household items and blankets.

Death toll eased by durability of capital's newest buildings

Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, is largely a collection of small, poorly-built brick apartment blocks. But outside of the oldest neighbourhoods, many in the city were surprised by how few modern structures collapsed in the quake.

While aid workers cautioned that many buildings could have serious structural damage, it was clear the death toll would have been far higher had more buildings caved in.

At least 1,152 people died in Kathmandu, but aid workers fear the situation could be far worse near the epicentre west of the city. As planeloads of supplies, doctors and relief workers from nearby countries arrived at Kathmandu's airport, thousands of Indians lined up outside in the hope of gaining a seat on a plane returning to New Delhi.

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