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The Himalayan tragedy

The Himalayan tragedy
Highlights

The Himalayan tragedy. This is nature’s fury at its worst. The Himalayas and its foothills in Nepal are reeling after a massive earthquake for two days in succession.

The National Disaster Relief Force and the army that share traditional ties with Nepal, with its famed Gorkha units, have gone into action.

This is nature’s fury at its worst. The Himalayas and its foothills in Nepal are reeling after a massive earthquake for two days in succession. Its impact has been felt 2,000 kilometre around, engulfing Tibet in the north and Andhra Pradesh in the south, touching India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, rocking scores of cities. At 7.9 magnitude, it is the worst Nepal has seen in 81 years and the world’s strongest since 1900.The death toll is mounting even as this is being written. If the toll is still in thousands -- over 2,500 in Nepal alone and over 5,500 injured – it is difficult to guess why such huge casualties. We need to gear up for the worse, even though experts and seismologists have said that the worst may be over.

Mount Everest has been hit by the fury, with avalanches bringing down snow and burying scores of climbers. Nepal’s tourist season is at its peak and thousands stranded need help. But as much as them, if not more, are the hapless Nepalese, using bare hands to dig out bodies of their dear ones. Nepal’s heritage monuments like Dharahara Tower and the famed Darbar Square, relics of its monarchic past that can never be re-created, are reduced to rubble – a truly traumatic experience. Nepal has lost a part of its precious, timeless history.

Relief is reaching from far and near. Although Bihar’s north has been hit, soon after a storm lashed it earlier in the month, worthy of a good neighbour, India has led the relief campaign. The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the army that have traditional ties with Nepal, with its famed Gorkha units, have gone into action. The Indian Air Force has conducted sorties carrying relief and bringing back those who need urgent attention.Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the operations, perhaps, using his experience of dealing with the earthquake in Kutch in 2000.

His is a national endeavour with an international dimension. His task, and that of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, gets domestic dimensions with damage within the country, while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj deals with the foreign missions. With Kathmandu Airport closed or still in danger, much of the global relief is bound to be routed through India.Pakistan, some of its northern parts also hit, has rushed relief in four aircraft, including medical assistance. Truly, the world community needs to gear up to provide succour to one of the world’s most favourite tourist destination and, not forgetting, the abode of Gods.

We are too close to the event – it is still hitting us – to ponder over the possible causes for this Himalayan tragedy. That the world’s youngest mountain range is extremely earthquake-prone is well known. To that, we can grimly add de-forestation, increasing habitation, building infrastructure (China has a project to build a tunnel under Mount Everest) and of course, the climate change. Only man has been responsible for this degeneration.

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