NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Ujwal Neupane served in the U.S. Navy, studied for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ODU, and works from his Norfolk home as a stock analyst. But Neupane spent the first 23 years of his life in a small village in the Nuwakot district, about 40 miles outside Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu.
He got a phone call early Saturday morning from a friend, and turned on the news to see his homeland in chaos after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the capital and outlying region.
It took hours for friends and family to reach Neupane, and when they did, the news was not good.
“I have 15 relatives and friends, who I know closely, are gone, buried. Two of them are children, little babies. Four or five are older grandmoms,” he said. “Every time I think about their suffering inside the rubble […] those thoughts really hurt me.”
Aftershocks continue to roll in, along with heavy rain, slowing aid and rescue workers who are trying to get into the country.
By midweek, Neupane said, aid workers still had not reached his family and friends in Nuwakot. He shared photos sent to him from friends and family of the devastation, taken where he was born and raised.
“My whole childhood memory is completely collapsed and gone,” he said. “It is not easy to cope with.”
Neupane said he’s not worried about water supply, since there is a river close to the village. Friends tell him they have enough food to last perhaps five days, but they don’t have the tools to cremate the dead. At least one person’s body is still trapped in the rubble and starting to decompose, they told him.
Desperate to help, Neupane is wiring money, but he knows it’s next to useless right now.
“Even if they have money, they have no shops to buy things they need,” he said. “The only hope is waiting for foreign rescuers or government. And the government is not acting fast enough. It’s not prepared and well-mobilized.”
That’s why Neupane and his friends and family are acting on their own to get help to the village. His brother plans to travel to Nepal as soon as he can get a ticket, and Neupane’s friends in Norfolk are raising money to send supplies, like tents and medicine with him.
Wednesday evening, they held a candlelight vigil to bring awareness to the issue.