The massive earthquake in Nepal reverberates in the Triangle, where people with ties to the Himalayan country have helped raise thousands of dollars for relief efforts as they worry about relatives and friends 8,000 miles away.
About 2,000 people who live mainly in Cary and Morrisville were born in Nepal or have family there.
Thakur Karkee, president of the Morrisville-based Nepal Center of North Carolina, said his father, his siblings and their families in Katmandu survived the earthquake. Now, he said, he is worried about the spread of disease in a city of more than 1 million people. The city has been reduced to rubble in many places, and residents have been forced out of their homes.
“My father is 82 years old now, and he is outside in a tent,” Karkee said. “He can’t go inside, and the water supply is very difficult.”
Former Gov. Jim Hunt lived in Nepal for years and is urging people to “give generously” for relief. The Hindu Society of North Carolina and Duke University undergraduates who plan to return home to Nepal after final exams are raising funds. And the N.C. Baptist Men group is sending volunteers.
“There’s not a group of people in the world who deserve help more than the citizens of Nepal,” Hunt said in a phone interview. He brought his family to the capital city of Kathmandu from 1964 to 1966 while he worked on economic development with the Ford Foundation.
“My third child was born there in a missionary hospital, one that’s probably been badly damaged,” he said.
Ngawang Choechen is worried for his father, a 93-year-old in Tibet whose village near the Nepal border was struck by the earthquake. Choechen hasn’t seen his father since the 1950s, when he was 10 and fled with his mother from Tibet to Nepal during a Chinese invasion.
Choechen went from being a refugee to teaching in the refugee camps. The 62-year-old moved to the United States 15 years ago.
He said the camp where he taught was near the epicenter of the earthquake, as was another refugee camp.
“It is completely gone,” said Choechen, who runs the Tibetan Himalayan Gift Shop in Cary with his wife, Tenzin. “But we don’t know how many people died.”
Locally, the couple has found support in the Nepalese community because there aren’t many Tibetans in the area.
Amar Karki, 44, said many people have come to his Himalayan Nepali Cuisine restaurant in Cary to show support since the earthquake on Saturday. He’s grateful that the town where his mother and father live wasn’t hit hard.
The Nepal Center and Hindu Society held two vigils Sunday, raising more than $2,000.
Steve Rao, a Morrisville Town Council member active in the Indian-American community, said many ethnicities came together to pray and discuss how to respond.
“When something like this happens, it’s an immediate impact on Morrisville and Cary because there’s so many Nepalese in the area,” Rao said.
Those who want to provide aid extend beyond the Hindu community.
The N.C. Baptist Men had two volunteers traveling to Nepal on Monday and have a medical team on standby, said Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator.
“We strive to be responsive, and this is a need we think we can fill,” Moss said.
Four Duke University students from Nepal are raising money through a GoFundMe site for aid they plan to distribute in person.
“My family is all safe, but they were forced to sleep outside for three days, and it was raining, so I’ve been very distracted,” said Pratishka Sharma, a freshman.
Sharma, 19, and another freshman, Suman Bajgain, 20, plan to return to Nepal in early May if their flights don’t get canceled.
Bajgain said Duke let him cancel an exam Monday because of the stress of not hearing from his family. He finally talked to his mother late Sunday, he said. She was about to go help a family friend search for the bodies of her missing daughters.
But for all the tragedy, Bajgain said, the response in North Carolina has been uplifting. They surpassed $11,500 in just a few days. Sharma said they’re now trying to find humanitarian partners on the ground in their native country.
“We want to use the money in the rural areas, where it’s harder for relief groups to reach and it’s not as concentrated,” she said.
Hunt also said he worries about the rural areas.
“In much of the country, there are no highways or even paved roads,” he said. “So it’s going to be impossible to get heavy, earth-moving equipment into those villages. People are just going to have to lift and dig folks out with shovels or their bare hands.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
How to help
The Nepal Center of North Carolina is raising money online at ncnepal.org or by mail at 108 Marengo Drive, Morrisville, NC 27560
The N.C. Baptist Men group is raising money at www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief.aspx or by mail at P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512
Duke University students are raising money online at www.gofundme.com/swg6psg.