Nepal marks 1 year since quake as frustration mounts

Nepalese police push back demonstrators protesting against delayed government reconstruction efforts in Kathmandu on April 24, 2016, a year after a devastating earthquake. Nepal held memorial services on April 24 for the thousands killed in a massive earthquake one year ago, as victims still living in tents accused the government of failing them.  / AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA


Kathmandu / AFP

Nepal held memorial services on Sunday for the thousands killed in a massive earthquake one year ago, as victims still huddled in tents across the country accused the government of failing them.
Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli laid flowers at a destroyed 19th-century tower in Kathmandu, where hundreds gathered to remember the devastating quake that ripped through the impoverished Himalayan nation.
Buddhist monks in maroon robes also held prayers at the site of a popular temple destroyed in the 7.8-magnitude quake that killed nearly 9,000 people.
Some four million survivors are still living in temporary shelters one year on, according to aid agencies, with frustration against the government mounting.
Around 100 protesters—including victims of the disaster—marched towards government offices in the capital, demanding faster reconstruction efforts.
Chhuldim Samden, a 21-year-old student, said she was fed up with waiting for help as she and her family struggle to survive in a shack in the capital. “Even after one year, so many people are staying in tents, we are still living in a shack,” Samden said as she took part in the protest.
“Where did all the donations go?”
Fears of quake-triggered landslides forced Samden, her parents and 17 other families from her village in the devastated Sindhupalchowk district to walk for two days until they eventually found shelter in Kathmandu.
Although international donors pledged $4.1 billion to aid Nepal’s recovery, political wrangling over control of the funds and delays in setting up the National Reconstruction Authority mean most victims have received nothing beyond an initial small payout. Following a storm of criticism, the government has vowed to kickstart reconstruction of schools and hospitals, and speed up distribution of the first $500 instalment of a $2,000 payout promised to homeless survivors.
Trekking guide Govinda Timilsina said his life has been on hold since losing his house. He has been unable to rebuild his home himself because of the government’s complex rules for qualifying for quake aid.
“The government rules were so confusing, we were scared we would not get compensation if we started work on our own,” said Timilsina.

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