Second Nepal earthquake: Harrogate volunteer could return to help

The destruction in Nepal after the first earthquake. (S)
The destruction in Nepal after the first earthquake. (S)

Leaving Nepal just days before a second devastating earthquake struck, a Harrogate volunteer could be heading back to help amid the further destruction in the coming weeks.

Today, a second earthquake hit Nepal, killing at least 42 people and injuring more than a thousand.

This 7.3 magnitude earthquake comes two weeks after a 7.8 magnitude quake killed more than 8,000 people, injured 18,000, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes on April 25.

Three days after the first earthquake, Martin Harrison, a 43-year-old water engineer from Harrogate, travelled to Nepal as part of an assessment team from Christian charity Reach Beyond.

He came home last week, but said he could well return following this second and unexpected quake which could cause serious problems as the monsoon season approaches.

Mr Harrison said: “It is too early to say that I definitely will go back, but I would say it is quite probable in the months to come.

“Reach Beyond will be sending further teams out there and our objective will be to help in the reconstruction phase, particularly in some of the areas in the Ghorka Province where we have been working for the last few years.

“In one of the villages we visited a lot of the houses were down, though the clinic we had built there was still standing.

“A radio station had been damaged and we will help them with that and the water systems.

“We still have a few people out there, including a surgeon and a nurse.”

Reach Beyond chief executive Colin Lowther confirmed that the focus would be ongoing in the Harmi area of the Ghorka Province in north central Nepal, which was near the epicentre of the first earthquake.

Working with local partners and communities, Reach Beyond volunteers want to provide safe housing, repair and rebuild the village school and the older part of the clinic building, plus the radio station building that was completely destroyed.

They will also build a community centre and replace the existing portable water system for the village after an assessment of structural damage to buildings, planning and budgeting for fundraising purposes, and providing funding.

Mr Harrison said that, in the wake of such destruction, which saw thousands of buildings brought to the ground, this rebuilding will be the most important step to provide a safe place for people to go.

“In the remote rural areas there was more damage than in the city because in poverty people are not building to the best standards.

“Next we need to move towards the reconstruction phase. There has been the immediate relief and, although there have been issues with bureaucracy, a lot of it has got out to where it needs to be so rebuilding is the next stage.

“The big issue will be people building more permanent shelters through the monsoon season. It could be a challenge to do that in the new few months, especially when the rains start.”

There are other concerns, however, including the spread of disease.

“The spread of disease is something that could happen but I didn’t see that talking place,” he said.

“The monsoon season is about to begin and that can bring with it perfect conditions for disease to take place.

“It could be a month from now when we might see outbreaks but I hope that doesn’t happen.”

Though this plan is a sign of more help and better things to come in Nepal, Mr Harrison said the dramatic effects of the earthquake are shocking.

“You are always shocked, but at the same time you have to put your mind to the task and not allow it to get the better of you.

“Particularly in the rural areas I was shocked by the level of destruction - some of the houses were literally turned into piles of rubble and they were unrecognizable.

“I admire the way local people have worked together as a community and helped one another with their needs.

“I am aware that in other places it has not necessarily been like that when more and more days are passing and they have not received the aid and it can become more of a desperate situation and it has been more challenging for people.”

Harrogate’s schools have been fundraising for Reach Beyond and St Aidan’s has raised more than £3,800. Killinghall School has raised £180, St Cuthberts Primary School in Pateley Bridge have raised over £200, and New Park School is in the process of collecting funds.

And the Rotary Club of Harrogate Brigantes collected almost £1,500 at its 35th anniversary - a total that has now doubled after collections and individual donations.

You can help the people in Nepal by contacting the Harrogate Advertiser Series. Email reporter James Metcalf on james.metcalf@jpress.co.uk

People can also give to help the Reach Beyond emergency appeal here: http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/reachbeyond/nepal