By Rose Taylor
Krishna Bahadur does not complain about his tin shack, quite the contrary. He says, compared to the tarpaulin cover under which he and his two sons spent two months it is like ‘a palace’.
His sons Kamal, 12 and Ashok, 18, have said little to anyone since losing their mum Kusum. The 42 year old was killed instantly when the roof of their two-storey, mud house collapsed when an earthquake struck Nepal at 11.59am on 25 April this year.
“Ashok has a haunted look: the trauma is etched in his face,” said James Pender, programmes officer for The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, who was on a visit to the Anandaban Leprosy Hospital that the charity supports.
“He mostly just stares ahead. He’s clearly deeply traumatized and missing his mum.”
It is more than six months since Nepal was struck by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by another soon afterwards. Almost 9,000 people died, some 17,000 people were injured and more than 1.5million homes were destroyed.
In Sindhupalchowk district, north of Kathmandu, there are no brick or mud building to be seen for miles.
The hillside villages, close to Mealmchi town, were among the hardest hit with 98 per cent of homes completely destroyed.
James said: “The main cities and towns have had some repair and rebuilding. But in hillside villages where the poorer people live, the story is starkly different.
“As I got close to the top of the hill, all I could see was rows of tin shacks.
“When the guide pointed out where the village was I could not see any houses – just large piles of rocks.
“I could only imagine the horror of when the roofs came down and the walls caved in. It would have been almost impossible to escape if you were in any of those houses.
“It was total devastation.”
All eight houses in Krishna’s village were destroyed. Five people died. Krishna’s wife was one of them.
The 48-year-old widower’s temporary shelter, like those of others in villages scattered around the hillside, are built with donated metal sheets and bamboo salvaged from the wreckage of their house.
James said: “The tin shacks are about the size of a one-car garage. The walls and the roof were all tin.
“Yet they had no complaints about the cramped quarters. They were grateful for what they had. It was very humbling.”
As winter approaches, the tin shacks will provide scant protection from the cold and snow.
Any hopes of the houses being rebuilt soon have been dashed because of a dispute on the Indian border that has meant few fuel tankers are getting through.
Not only has it sent the price of petrol rocketing by some 500 per cent, it has also killed the chances of bricks and cement being transported from the city to the remote villages for rebuilding work to start.