The Nepali community in the UAE is on tenterhooks, organising blood donation campaigns, on social networking sites and offline, trying to locate missing family members or relatives through various channels, consoling fellow community members who have lost their near and dear ones or those who have become homeless overnight.
The aftershock of yesterday’s deadly quake was felt again on Sunday, leaving the overseas Nepali community worried about the safety of their family members, who have survived the first quake that killed a few thousand people.
Security guards, fuel station attendants, housemaids as well as beauticians and professionals working in various Emirates are sharing ‘Pray for Nepal’ messages as their profile pictures, while the emergency number given by the diplomatic missions are overburdened with calls from friends and relatives wanting to know about the safety of their family members.
Deb Lama, who reached Dubai to work in an Eppco fuel station only a month ago, is a devastated man today, because two of his neighbours living in a three-storey apartment in Gangapur, Baswara, died when the building caved in as the earth shook.
“When the first earthquake hit, my parents and sister had gone out to meet some relatives. Two people who were inside the three-storey house died and two are missing. My house is totally gone and my family is living on the street. I am working here only one month and yet to get my salary. I have to work hard to make up for the loss and build another house,” said Deb.
“There were three flats in the building and all the flats have disappeared, leaving only the debris,” he said.
Deb and two of his brothers are in the UAE. “What can I do now? I don’t have any money to send for my family for making even a temporary accommodation. It needs a fortune to build a new house,” he added.
“We have about 100 Nepali employees and none of them has been directly affected by the earthquake. Thank God that their families are safe and their homes intact,” said Sudhir Kumar Shetty, Chief Operating Officer, UAE Exchange.
Several security companies that employ Nepali security guards are also getting reports about their employees losing house or missing relatives. “A security guard in the Knowledge Village was crying after he got the sad news about his house collapsing and family members dying in the earthquake,” he said.
Dipendra Thapa Chettrriya, a sports personality and marketing executive at the UAE Exchange, said: “Fortunately none of my family members living in Birat Nagar near the Indian border with the state of Bihar, has been affected by the earthquake. Many of my relatives are living in Kathmandu. I am unable to contact them through mobile phones. Yesterday I could communicate with my family on the land line and felt relieved that my family members are safe.”
Kumar, who works as an office boy in a Sharjah company, has lost contact with his family in Nepal’s Nuwakot Kakani since last evening. “I did speak to my family and they said they were safe, but I haven’t been able to reach them after the power lines broke down,” he said.
Kumar said his house was flattened by the quake. His family told him that five people in his village had died in the quake. He is now looking for an air ticket to fly home to his family. “I am looking for ticket on Jet Airways and flying to Bagdogra because I hear that Kathmandu airport is not fully functional.”
Reena is another Nepali who works as a nanny in a Dubai home, who was in Nepal’s Chitwan village on her annual leave. She was set to fly out from Kathmandu on Monday. “She reached Kathmandu last evening for her flight back to Dubai. But since she has been unable to get in touch with her family we have decided to delay her journey by a few days,” said her employer. “Hopefully, she will be able to contact her family soon.”
She added that it is tough for people to connect because there is no power and the mobile networks are down in most areas.
On social networking sites, people are assuring their friends and relatives in Nepal are safe. ‘Pray for Nepal’ says the profile picture of Kalpana Rai, a Dubai-based Nepali woman.
"We are stuck near a village between Barpak and Balua in Gorka region. I cannot contact anyone. We are not able to reach the embassies and our mobiles are going to stop working soon. This is my last update, please try to help. People are helpless. All houses destroyed. Many people hurt badly. Some people died in front of us. The ground is still shaking every -15 -30 minutes. Just pray for us'," wrote Shiva Rajvanshi on Facebook.
‘Save Life, Donate Blood ,’ says another FB post by a Nepali citizen in Dubai.
Nepali expats waiting to do charity for affected families
The Nepali community in the UAE is yet to get a true picture of the damages caused by the earthquake, with their families back home stranded on the streets after the authorities alerted them about aftershocks.
Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Damodar Dahal from the non- resident Nepali community said his informal group is collecting data from different Emirates. One of the cases he came across was a Nepali expatriate who has lost four family members and his home.
“One of our members, Pravin Mithra, has lost four family members and his family in the earthquake. We are working closely with the Nepali missions to start some charity drive,” Dahal said.
“The earthquake is still continuing and people are scared. Most people are living outside their houses,” he said, adding that Pravin Vikram, who works in Dubai, is one of the worst affected Nepalis here.
“A lot of people are missing. My own two houses are gone as only five houses remain there. Out of forty to fifty houses in my village, only four or five new buildings survived the earthquake,” said Damodar, who hails from Kaver district, Tukucha.
“In most of the collapsed houses, people who were inside died from falling stones and mud. These houses are built with big stones. If people are not outside, the residents will definitely die. About 100 people in my village died and 350 are in hospitals,” he added.
“We plan to start a donation drive. In Nepal the government of Nepal has started a fund raising programme and we are talking to the Nepali embassy to send money,” he added. “It was 45 years ago that there was a big earthquake like this. This one is bigger than the one that rocked our country then.
“My family lives in Kathmandu. Since morning I am trying to call them. Fortunately they are alive and are now sleeping outside because it is risky to live inside the house. In the cities also people are sleeping outside. They are advised not to enter homes next 24 to 48 hours,” he said.
There are almost 350,000 Nepalis working in the UAE, as per the available data.
“Some of my friends have already flown back and others are waiting. We are trying to get approval from the authorities here and once we have got the authorization, we will collect donations from community members,” said Gyanendra Bahadur, a Nepali community leader.
“I am posting messages to encourage blood donation back home because we cannot send blood from here. I hail from Kathmandu and as of now my relatives are safe. But next 72 hours will be critical. All people are living in the streets. Places like Bhaktapur are crowded. Telephones are not working since morning and I could not get in touch with them. I was able to know about my family through one of my neighours who could communicate through friends,” said Kalpana Rai, a Nepali woman in the UAE.
“The good thing is Internet is working. It is not safe to go inside the house. Thirty per cent of the buildings in my town are already damaged. I know many members in the Nepali community who have lost their homes back home,” she said.