Nepal: Epicentre Laprak and Barbak in Gurkha

April 29, 2015

Gurkha heartlands devastated by Nepal earthquake

Villages occupied by the Gurungs, the clan which provides the backbone of the British Army’s Gurkha regiments, wiped out by Nepal earthquake

“All the houses are down,” said Subek Shrestha, a helicopter pilot who on Tuesday night flew some of the first aid to reach the twin towns of Laprak and Barpak, in north central Nepal, believed to be at the epicentre of the quake.

He spoke as an injured elderly woman survivor was stretchered off his two-seater helicopter by soldiers and into a waiting jeep to take her to hospital.

“I don’t know how many bodies there are. We are dealing with the badly injured,” he said. “They also have very few things to eat.”

People are now living out in the open as aid convoys try to get through. Matters were made worse by torrential rains in the mountains on Tuesday.

Mr Pukhrel said he believed that fewer than 50 houses in Barpak remained standing, out of 1,400, and almost none in Laprak. Most are made of brick and crumbled; only sturdier concrete buildings resisted the earthquake.

Col William Shuttlewood, director of the Gurkha Welfare Trust which looks after veterans in Nepal, said there were fears for a “considerable number” of the former soldiers.

He said the earthquake had struck “right in the centre” of one of the Gurkhas’ recruiting heartlands.

The charity, which looks after 6,600 ex Gurkhas, said it had mobilised its medical teams and staff to try to get a better picture of the devastation in more remote valleys.

He said: “We need to have a good understanding of the extent of the catastrophe and understand the needs of those affected.

“It’s right in the centre of one of the brigade recruiting areas and inevitably there will be a considerable number of retired soldiers living in the area.

“There are going to be fatalities. We understand the extent of the damage is such that there will be fatalities and some of those will be ex-Gurkhas and their families.”

Gurkhas and the Gurung clan are regarded with some reverence by the population of central Nepal, both for their fighting skills and for the income provided by their salaries and pensions, the latter subject of repeated disputes with the British government.

Corporal Hashtabha Hadur Gurung, who served from 1974 to 1989 in the Queen Elizabeth’s Own 2nd Gurkha Regiment, first in Hong Kong and then based in Aldershot, and whose son is now also in the British army, said he hoped that Britain would now furnish relief.

“If Britain helped, it would give us great pleasure,” he said.

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