Updated: May 4, 2015 7:07:47 am
As the largest private orphanage in Nepal, Bal Mandir was home to over a hundred children. But when the earthquake struck on April 25, a wall of the 83-year-old building collapsed, leaving the children homeless once again.
The building has now been cordoned off. The younger children have been shifted temporarily to a government building nearby. The others have been taken to a government-run orphanage in Siphal.
“The ground started to shake, the Bal Mandir building also started to shake,” recalled Gokul Nepali, 10, who was playing football when the quake struck. “A wall of the building collapsed and I sat in the brace position,” he said.
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Rina Rawal, 7, was playing hide-and-seek in the bushes with her friends. Scared, they gathered around a tree.
“A wall collapsed and children ran out scared and crying,” recalled Tek Bahadur Gurung, 45, a security guard at the orphanage. “A Jain acharya had just finished his preaching on the ground outside, so most of the children and staff were outdoors,” said Gurung. “Baba Ramdev, who was delayed, was leaving and people were seeing him off, so barely anyone got hurt,” he said.
Ritik Sunuwar, 9, and Divas Balak, 8, were outside, watching Ramdev. “I was looking at the cavalcade and listening to the sirens,” said Sunuwar.
“I was taking a bath when the building shook. I put on my tracksuit and caught hold of the stairs,” said Karan Chand, 10. Karna Sherpa, 8, said he ran out and hugged a tree.
Standing near the fallen wall, Pushp Adhikari, 21, picked up a brick from the rubble and read the inscription — “Shri Teen Bhim 1989”. “The building was built by Bhim Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana in the Nepalese year 1989, or 1932 according to the Gregorian calendar, for his second wife,” said Adhikari, whose father works as a guard at the building which also houses two other offices.
“We don’t know what will be the fate of the building. A team of engineers will inspect the structure and let us know,” said Apara Thapa Bhattarai, Project Coordinator at Nepal Children’s Organisation.
“We set up tents on the Bal Mandir grounds and lived there for some days. We returned to the building on Thursday,” said Indu Kattel, 38, hostel in-charge. “We had ample stock so we are not facing shortage of any items, except water,” she said.
Kattel said it was only the older children, above seven years, who were scared. The younger ones could not understand what was happening.
Anita Sunuwar, 16, said she “crouched on the ground as everyone else was doing it.” She and her sister Rabina, 11, have been shifted to the government-run orphanage in Siphal.
Rabina was dancing on the terrace when the earthquake hit. “I ran downstairs and rushed outside,” she said.
Puja Silwal, 16, said she was playing basketball. “I didn’t know what it was, but everybody ran out yelling bhukamp, bhukamp,” she said. “We are not scared now, as we have got used to the aftershocks… I want to make earthquake proof homes for people now.”
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