As you have seen on the news, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the Kathmandu Valley yesterday and caused massive destruction in Nepal. The strongest to hit the Himalayan nation in 80 years, the devastating quake razed Kathmandu’s neighborhoods, temples and heritage sites to the ground and triggered multiple avalanches on Mount Everest. As of today, more than 2,400 deaths have been confirmed, and this figure is expected to rise as rescue operations continue to retrieve bodies from the rubble. Significant aftershocks have occurred, including one today of magnitude 6.9, and more are anticipated. An estimated 30 of Nepal’s 75 districts and various areas in Bangladesh, India and Tibet have been affected by this natural disaster. Tens of thousands of Nepalis are camped out in the streets and open spaces, terrified of the continued aftershocks and the risk of further building collapse. The roads in and surrounding Kathmandu are heavily damaged, nearly all areas are without electricity, and local hospitals are overwhelmed with the thousands who have been injured.
All NDI-Nepal staff and their immediate families are safe and accounted for. Currently, we have 20 national staff members, two resident international staff and their dependents, and two visiting international consultants in-country. At the time of the quake, many of our staff members were in Dhulikel – about an hour away from Kathmandu – conducting a training program with parliamentarians and political leaders. Following the earthquake, and given the uncertainty of road conditions, our staff and program participants spent the night in Dhulikel. All had to stay outdoors in makeshift tents and in vehicles, and endure several strong aftershocks that succeeded the initial tremor. The training venue was able to restore some power through a local generator, and this enabled our staff to keep some mobile phones charged and maintain communications.
Our staff and program participants were able to travel back to Kathmandu this morning. While damage to buildings within Kathmandu is widespread, the NDI office and staff residences appear to have suffered minor damage. NDI staff have access to water, food and shelter, and are in frequent communication with NDI headquarters.
NDI has been in Nepal since 1994, conducting programs on political party and parliamentary development, voter and civic education, domestic election observation, and youth and women’s political empowerment. Currently, NDI is working with the country’s political parties and Constituent Assembly/Parliament to strengthen their institutional capacities, improve their responsiveness to members and constituents, and prepare for local elections. NDI programs in Nepal are supported by USAID.