, news editor, Adventist Review
Relief workers from ADRA and the Adventist Church in Nepal raced to distribute tents and food on Thursday as weather forecasters warned that the earthquake-devastated country could expect rain for the next 10 days.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency said it distributed 1,710 tarpaulins in three districts outside Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, that were flattened by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Saturday, April 25.
“We are working on responding as quickly as possible,” said Robert Patton, ADRA’s emergency response coordinator. “Trying to help protect these families and those who are most vulnerable — children, the elderly, the disabled — from the elements is one of our top priorities.”
ADRA received 1,360 tarpaulins from Dubai on Wednesday and bought another 400 tarpaulins and 348 tents from Nepalese vendors earlier in the week.
Scores of people, including ADRA workers and hundreds of Adventist families, are living outdoors regardless of whether their houses survived the earthquake because numerous aftershocks are continuing to rattle Nepal. The quake killed more than 6,000 people.
Cold, wet weather and a lack of drinking water are endangering the health of survivors, aid agencies said.
Bad weather has slowed down the Nepalese government’s efforts to send humanitarian aid to remote areas closer to the epicenter, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Kathmandu. Helicopters, required to distribute aid to villages not long accessible by road, have been busy ferrying the injured to hospitals.
Clashes broke out on Wednesday when crowds of worried people desperately tried to block trucks from leaving Kathmandu to distribute aid to others.
On Thursday, Nepal’s military provided troops to escort the vehicles, including one packed with tents and food for isolated Adventist church members, said Umesh Pokharel, president of the Adventist Church in Nepal.
“Today our team left at 7:30 a.m. while it was raining,” Pokharel told the Adventist Review. “Our relief vehicle was escorted by the Nepal army and safely passed through the place where the relief operation was mobbed yesterday.”
The Adventist team, resuming an effort started a day earlier with villages on the other side of Kathmandu, slowly navigated badly damaged roads in nonstop rain to reach the Sirubari Sindhupalchowack district, located 55 miles (88 kilometers) from Kathmandu. Thirty-one Adventist families lost everything in the district, and the visitors handed over 12 sacks of rice, 12 boxes of instant noodles, and tents and drinking water to the local pastor, Shankar Baral.
A local church member, Ram Baral, told the team that he and other Adventists had escaped certain injury and perhaps death by worshiping in church when the earthquake struck.
“We are so thankful to God because church attendance saved lives,” he said.
Adventists in other villages have also praised God that they were worshiping in sturdy churches rather than in their homes last Sabbath.
Many people in the district died when their homes collapsed, including a newly married couple and members of the Adventists’ extended families, Pokharel said.
No Adventists are known to have died in the earthquake.
Pokharel also led the relief team to the nearby village of Sangachock, where they saw a bulldozer trying to retrieve a family buried in a flattened house since Saturday.
“A woman fainted when she saw the bodies of her daughter and grandchild,” Pokharel said.
The 35 church members and two female gospel workers in the village said they were not injured because they had been in church.
The team handed out 10 sacks of rice, 10 boxes of instant noodles, and five tents.
“They were very happy because they did not expect to get immediate relief from the church,” Pokharel said.
At the last stop, Kunta village, the team distributed nine sacks of rice, nine boxes of instant noodles, and tents to 17 Adventist families, or 75 people.
“We need more tents and food supplies along with blankets and clothes,” Pokharel said. “Tomorrow we will be heading to another place.”
Pokharel has appealed to church members worldwide to send cash donations to the Adventist church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, to help Adventists in Nepal. (See sidebar.)
ADRA, which is assisting Nepal’s general population, reiterated its own call for donations on Thursday.
“Cash donations enable organizations to respond to urgent needs as they change, which happens frequently in early stages of response,” said Thierry Van Bignoot, ADRA’s director for emergency management. “They are the most efficient and allow us to purchase good locally, ensuring that everything we get is culturally and environmentally appropriate.”
One of the families that ADRA is helping is from remote Lapa village. The earthquake flattened their home, leaving the son, Enos, trapped inside and in extreme pain for three days, ADRA said. Finally, a rescue helicopter arrived to take him to the district hospital.
“He is supposed to be referred to the bigger hospital in Biratnagar. He is in a lot of pain, but our turn has not come yet,” his mother, Rami, tearfully told an ADRA worker. “The district hospital does not have the capacity to do the surgery he needs right now.”
She said she doesn’t know what she will do next.
“We need food and shelter,” she said. “There is nothing left in our village.”