Community partners share their experience about Nepal's first recorded tornado

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  • Dipendra Lamsal
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“The sound,” Dukhiram Mahara Chamaar begins to tell. “I’ll never forget that sound. A humming sound that was followed by a lot of suffering.” “At first it sounded like a firestorm. It was already evening and we came outside to see where the terrible noise was coming from. It was a storm and it also looked like it was carrying fire. The worst thing: It was heading straight for us”, recalls 30-year-old Jitendra Prasadmaha. “We were all so scared. I gathered all my children in one corner of the house; we hugged and waited for it to be over. It only took minutes, but it felt like hours to us!” Sukan Mahato continues. Lalbabu Pandit also saw the tornado with his own eyes: “The weather was not only scary, but also very unusual. The sky was dark, but it wasn’t raining! Instead there was hail. It was huge, the tornado, but it was moving so fast that we didn’t notice how destructive it was at first.”

On March 31, 2019, a severe stroke of fate left an entire district breathless. At 7.45 p.m., the tornado which formed in Chitwan National Park swept over the Bara district and damaged 10 villages, even though it only lasted a minute. Many people were injured and even more homeless. “After the wind was gone, the whole village looked different. Some of the houses had disappeared and not even a pillar remained. Crops and fields have been destroyed. Children ran around crying and shouting for help. It took us two hours to find them all. We spent the first night in our field, sleeping in the open air and praying that the tornado would not come back.” Jitendra continues. “People who lived in concrete houses were safe, but since most of us live in mud or tin houses, we were badly affected.” explains Dukhiram Mahara Chamaar.

This led to a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished rural farming communities affected by the disaster. Emergency aid and response began soon after. Caritas Nepal started on June 15, 2019 in Rampurwa and in the village of Telgai with the implementation of their project “Nepal Windstorm Response”. By then, the government and other organizations have already contacted the villagers and provided first aid. However, Caritas was one of the first to restore everyday life, to improve livelihood and concentrated on a total of 249 households. One of the first steps was to organize affected community partners in groups of farmers with 27 to 30 people. The selected chairpersons of the groups in turn founded a committee to determine the needs of their community and to communicate the results to Caritas Nepal. In close consultation with these committees, Caritas decided to carry out various activities: The villagers received cash support of 650 rupees per day for the reconstruction or repair of their house and the school in the village of Rampurwa. All members of the farming group received training in agriculture and hygiene, material and seed support and benefited from groundwater drilling. Small businesses received loans, schools were supported with hygiene kits and stationary and selected partners in the community received vocational training.

Almost a year later, most injuries were healed and all partners in the community benefit from Caritas’ support. However, the shock has now turned into fear of another tornado. “After February, when it’s slowly getting warmer, the wind is getting stronger here, but never to such an extent. Since a year is almost over, we fear that something like this could happen again soon.” Lalbabu Pandit says carefully. But despite their fear, they are now enjoying their improved quality of life:

Jitendra Prasad Mahato from Rampurwa Village

“We couldn’t sleep the night after the tornado. It was dark; we didn’t know where to go, so we wished the sun would come up soon. Soon the government and later other organizations helped us to recover from the disaster. I received seeds from Caritas that were only worth 50 rupees. That doesn’t seem like much, but thanks to the agricultural training I managed to make 5000 rupees out of it. Caritas also distributed sweaters and wash sets to our children, which helped them to stay warm and healthy. Through these activities, my life has improved significantly and we are no longer hungry. We can now work with full stomachs for a better future.”

Rajendra Shahateli from Rampurwa Village

“I am 62 years old and have never seen such a storm. It was so big that it seemed to eat the whole village. My house flew. The wind took everything we had. But with seeds, tools, an irrigation system and the knowledge provided by Caritas, we soon not only recovered from the catastrophe, but also improved our life situation like never before. I am now growing potatoes, onions, okra and bitter gourd. I never thought that I could grow such diversity in my field.

I am a member of the Janaki Farming Group and I am fortunate that I was also selected to receive a 10,000 rupee fund to open a grocery store. In addition to farming, I can now support my family with additional income from this business. I feel very privileged that the other members have given me this trust and I will continue to expand my shop as required in the future!”

Ram Narayan Prasadmandal from Rampurwa Village

“I am the chairman of the school committee and I am very grateful that Caritas has helped to rebuild this school! Before the tornado, 250 children attended this school, but afterwards they were afraid because the roof was gone and the structure was completely damaged. We turned to Caritas Nepal and without hesitation they supported us with 400,000 rupees and helped us to install doors and paint the walls. After completion, the pupils not only go back to school regularly, but we even noticed an increase of enrolled students. I think the beautiful wall paintings and the stationary support from Caritas really motivate them!”

Sukan Mahato from Telgai Village

“With the seeds and training I received from Caritas, I was able to grow 500 kg of potatoes and sell them for a total of 55,000 rupees. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe I could grow and sell so much. I have never sold vegetables and suddenly I have so much profit! From the money I bought a buffalo that gives 6 liters of milk every day. I am 55 years old and for the first time in my life I can feel peaceful. I don’t have to worry that I can’t feed my family of eight. I now have the skills, knowledge and motivation! I look forward to further training!”

Lalbabu Pandit from Telgai Village

“I was provided with cemented bricks and money to rebuild the roof of my house. Therefore I received 650 rupees a day, which helped my family to overcome the emergency situation. Of course we are still afraid that such a tornado will reach our village again, but at least we have an increased quality of life for the time being. I am glad that my family feels safe in the new house, where it is always warm and dry.”

Chotelaal Prasad Yadav from Telgai Village

“I am the Chairman of the Water Use Committee, and the groundwater drilling that we are working on has already proven very useful for all residents of the region. Since most of the villagers here rely on the cultivation of vegetables, corn, wheat and rice, there is a high need for water and a suitable irrigation system. After the tornado, however, many people faced severe water shortages. But once all the drilling is done we will install pipes to supply all the fields in the area!”

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