Gangabu won’t ring a bell outside Kathmandu. But on this busy city stretch, where several buildings toppled and others tilted dangerously over the weekend, India and China have been running into each other, their rescue teams searching the rubble mounds by the roadside for any sign of life.
India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has two teams in the area. With six more teams called in, the NDRF strength has gone up to 16. At the disposal of the Nepalese authorities, they are deployed wherever needed to rescue people, pull out bodies.
On Monday, the NDRF rescued Sunita Sitoula, more than 48 hours after she was buried in the rubble of a highrise that collapsed in Basundhara. She was taken to a hospital and reunited with her husband and two sons who had escaped unhurt. “It feels like I have come into a different world,” Sitoula told a reporter of eKantipur.
In Gangabu too, the NDRF rating is high. “The Indian team is very good, China is also good,” Bal Bahadur, who works at a tea stall, said as he watched a Chinese team move in.
On Tuesday, a search andrescue team from Yunnan was in Gangabu trying to reach Badan Magar trapped beneath the guest house he had named after daughter Muna. She died when it collapsed Saturday.
“Badan was asleep when the earth shook. His wife Raj Kumari ran out. Muna never made it. She was only 15,” relative Netra said as he shooed away people to make way for the Chinese rescuers. He hadn’t given up hope. “We believe he is still alive though it has been 72 hours. This team will reach him, they can see him.”
India and China, among the first countries to respond to Kathmandu’s SOS for international help, have deep interests in Nepal. Beijing has been upgrading its infrastructure along the Nepal border and the Chinese are investing heavily in the country. India’s ties with Nepal are much older. They share an open border, people-to-people contact, generations of kinship and culture. Nearly six million people from Nepal live and work in India.
Others from the neighbourhood have also arrived in Kathmandu — Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh.
Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay came in person and handed a support cheque of one million dollars to counterpart Sushil Koirala. The Pakistanis have opened a field hospital in Bhaktapur to help the injured.
Aid and rescue teams from the United States, South Korea, France, Turkey, Israel and Poland are already here and are being joined, among others, by teams from Russia, Japan, Singapore and Switzerland.
The Israelis have flown in medicine and medical equipment, and a team of more than 200, mostly doctors, technicians and sanitation experts. The United Kingdom is sending Gurkha engineers, solar lanterns and shelter gear.
The global response has been swift and the arrival of men and material will help Nepal’s efforts to reach areas outside the Kathmandu Valley, especially in the mountain districts where people desperately need help. With road links snapped at several points and communication lost, authorities in Kathmandu are unable to assess the extent of the devastation outside the Valley.