By: Alifiya Khan
In 2009, she was in Nepal creating a niche for herself at 8,848 metre above sea level. Krushnaa Patil is back in Nepal, this time spreading some warmth at Ground Zero of the devastation in the tiny nation left behind by last week’s earthquake.
Since April 28, she has been camping in Kathmandu helping quake survivors to set up tents to protect them from cold and rain. Their houses are either completely shattered or are too wobbly and dangerous for them to shift back.
They have run out of tarpaulin sheets. They are making “makeshift tents” using flex sheets of toppled billboards. She adds that they are also in need of blankets and clothes to keep people warm. Pneumonia is in the air, and could create havoc, she said over the phone.
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“People are still sleeping in the open and many are facing the danger of contracting pneumonia. What they need is tarpaulin to make tents…and blankets and clothes,” Patil said.
In 2009, the mountaineer from Pune had become the youngest Indian woman to scale Mount Everest.
Besides helping people build tents in Kathmandu, Patil has been tracing missing Indians through a network of Indian trekkers and climbers there.
Speaking over the phone, Patil said that tarpaulin sheets ran out after they set up about 250 tents.
They are now using flex board sheets instead. “The only tarpaulin manufacturing unit (in Nepal) has been booked for weeks. What we are asking for is tarpaulin to build tents. We are expecting 2000 tarpaulin sheets from Mumbai and another 2000 from New Delhi but we need at least 20,000 sheets,” said Patil.
Another problem she has come to know is that much of the relief material sent from across the world is lying at the airport as the Nepal government is stuck in logistic conundrums, like collating data about areas that need materials to be sent and areas where they have already been sent. “A lot of time is being lost and my suggestion to people sending the material is to first check if the organisation or NGO is taking it by road or by air, and if they are sending it by air, whether they can get it out of the airport fast,” said Patil.
On Friday, Patil attended a meeting of the United Nations World Health Organisation for medical teams in which 23 countries attended but said she didn’t see any representation from India.
“I saw a team of psychotherapists from a Middle-Eastern country… I think Nepalese people are bearing physical injuries with great dignity… mental health professionals may come in handy here. The tragedy and its impact on their minds is immense. They live in fear of further quakes,” she said.
Krushnaa has found surprising resilience in the Nepalese people, already famed for their hardy physique. “Children those who come to our camps to help in building tents are laughing and chatting and it warms the heart to see their strength in the face of the tragedy. I met a mother whose 12-day-old baby is in the hospital and she is so positive that her baby will certainly live, I was touched,” she said.
Asked about the missing Indians in Nepal, Patil said every single person on the list she has with her has been traced including a group of four traced to Pokhara. “If anyone is still looking for friends or family, I can be contacted,” she said.