Student loses home to quake in Nepal

Student loses home to quake in Nepal

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

Nikesh Maharjan started his Sunday by showering and browsing the web.

Maharjan, a graduate student in physics from Nepal, then used his tablet, went to CNN.com and saw the devastation of the magnitude-7.8 earthquake of his native country, Nepal.

He logged into Facebook to make sure his family was OK and was eventually able to call his brother.

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“I came to know there was a huge earthquake and our family was safe,” Maharjan said. “But my home is gone.”

He said their home was located in the capital city of Kathmandu, which was 50 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. The 5-story house was shared with 12 to 15 family members, seven or eight being small children. At the time of the quake, his aunt was throwing a party, hosting nearly 25 in the house. Thankfully, they were all on his aunt’s side of the house.

“If they were on my side of the house, they would be gone,” he said. “We are very blessed that no one was on that side. I am fortunate that God saved our family.”

He said many of his family members were too afraid to go back in, with some of them only going in to get cooking supplies and clothes. They became some of the thousands of people made homeless after the disaster, and moved into a nearby school.

Minendra Rijal, Nepal’s minister of information and communications, told CNN the government was unable to make an exact estimate on the total number of people displaced, but said 4,700 tents and 22,000 tarpaulins have been made available.

Rijal said more tents were being sent from Thailand and India, and an additional 100,000 from Pakistan.

Maharjan’s brother told him there is no way to save the house — there is no alternative to demolishing the place he called home. He said until then, his family would have to stay somewhere else. He said he is unsure when that would happen, with aftershocks still occurring nearly every 3 hours.

To provide aid from Carbondale, the Nepalese Student Society has been taking donations at tables in the Student Center and Morris Library, and created a page on GoFundMe.com. The online campaign has raised more than $1,300 so far, with a goal of $35,000.

The desire to help others has brought together the diverse people of SIU.

Noah Leverett, a sophomore from Carbondale studying math, said one the first friends he made at SIU was from Nepal.

Leverett said he did not know how to help at first, being a broke college student. But he was asked by a couple of Nepalese students he had become friends with to help at the tables. He said many Americans get so wrapped up in their own struggles, they forget about the rest of the world.

The current death toll stands at more than 5,200 people, but that means thousands more must deal with loss of family members and friends.

“If you’re aware of what happens to their family and their friends, then you can realize it’s more than 5,000 people that are affected,” Leverett said. “The people that died are dead, but the people that are living are tremendously affected by those that died.”

He said he met Maharjan for the first time Wednesday, but meeting him and learning what happened has made him feel more integrated with the worldwide community.

With the end of the semester a few weeks away, Maharjan said he does not plan on going back to Nepal. He said it would cost nearly $5,000 to fly, so he would rather just send them any money he has. 

“There is no work I can do, I cannot help them anymore,” he said. “If I spare some money and send it to them, that is worth more.”

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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