Rebuilding Nepal: flattened homes, shattered lives

Galway-based photographer Szymon Barylski charts Nepal’s struggle to rebuild after the 2015 earthquakes

Earthquake victims: pupils in Mandre, in Gorkha District, whose village was near the epicentre of the 2015 quake. Locals used corrugated steel to build a temporary replacement for their school; it has neither electricity nor materials for its 250 pupils. Photograph:  Szymon Barylski

Earthquake victims: pupils in Mandre, in Gorkha District, whose village was near the epicentre of the 2015 quake. Locals used corrugated steel to build a temporary replacement for their school; it has neither electricity nor materials for its 250 pupils. Photograph: Szymon Barylski

 

In 2015 Nepal was destroyed by two earthquakes. The first, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck on April 25th, the second, an aftershock measuring 7.3, on May 12th. Between them they killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed more than 600,000 homes. The Nepalese are still struggling with the aftermath. Many people affected by the earthquakes still live in temporary wooden shelters with corrugated-steel roofs – their only protection during monsoon season.

The residents of Gorkha District, near the epicentre of the first earthquake, are still uncertain of their future. Many survivors have lost their families, their friends and everything they owned. Just after the disaster the government in Kathmandu promised each family that lost its home 200,000 rupees, or about €1,750. In March last year a few of them instead received only 50,000 rupees.

Some are trying to rebuild their homes on their own, taking materials from destroyed houses. But that’s not an option for the elderly, unable to cope with such work.

“We want our homes to be rebuilt as quickly as possible,” a villager in Baluwa says. “Most of the people who are able to build their homes on their own have almost finished, and we’re afraid the government may leave us and forget about support for us.”

“After the earthquake,” says Indra Kumari Ghale, who lives in the village of Barpak, and whose nephew the quake killed, “our heart is never peaceful.”

Ewa Nikiel