A woman mourns the death of her granddaughter following the April 25 earthquake in Nepal. (CNS photo/Navesh Chitraka, Reuters)
Jesuits Respond to Devastating Earthquake in Nepal

Editor's Note: The people of Nepal need your help. If you're in Canada, please visit the Canadian Jesuits International website to donate to relief efforts. The Midwest Jesuits, who share a special relationship with the Jesuits of Nepal, are receiving donations to provide immediate emergency aid and long-term assistance to the most vulnerable persons in some of the worst-hit areas of Nepal. Please visit the Midwest Jesuits' Nepal Earthquake Relief page to help. 

May 12, 2015 — On May 12, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit a remote mountainous region of Nepal killing at least 36 people, injuring over 1,000, triggering landslides and toppling buildings less than three weeks after the country was hit by its worst quake in decades.

The new earthquake struck as the country was still mourning its dead and recovering from a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25, which has killed more than 8,000 people, injured almost 14,000 and destroyed centuries-old temples and thousands of homes.

The 68 Jesuits serving in Nepal are safe, and after the May 12 earthquake, they reported: “The fresh quake has triggered uncertainty and fear in the minds of the people again. Life was just starting to pick up after last month’s quake. … Educational institutions were supposed to open at the end of this week. People had begun to move back to their houses. But with this fresh tremor, people in the capital were seen erecting makeshift shelters again.”

The Jesuits in Nepal serve five schools, a college and social ministries that support disadvantaged young people in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Deonia and Maheshpur. Jesuit Father Augustine Thomas, principal of St. Xavier's College in Kathmandu, reported that there was no major damage to Jesuit buildings and no casualties reported among the religious houses.

The Jesuits' St. Xavier's College has opened its grounds for shelter.

After the earthquake on April 25, Fr. Thomas wrote, “I spent my night in the car and woke up with a good shake this morning at 5 a.m. [Sunday]. The aftermath is still on. At the moment the local communities are involved in the rescue work. So many people to help but they are digging the collapsed buildings with hand tools, which is not very fast. Please continue to pray for the people of Nepal.”

Vast tent cities sprung up in Kathmandu for people displaced by the earthquake as strong aftershocks continued over the weekend. Caritas Nepal has been providing tarps to offer protection from the rain and cold temperatures. “We are distributing the necessary things — tarpaulin, tents and food. People are in dire need because it is already the third day after the quake,” said Jesuit Father Pius Perumana, head of Caritas Nepal, an international Catholic aid organization that responds to humanitarian crises such as natural disasters and conflict.

Fr. Perumana reported that there is an urgent need for shelter: “What the people need immediately is shelter. Temperatures are dropping at night and there is also rain. Children are sleeping outside at night. It is really traumatic for them. We’re providing candles and matches so people have light at night as the electricity is out.”

Jesuit Father Boniface Tigga, regional superior of the Jesuits' Nepal Region, reported that the Nepal Jesuits have responded quickly to the terrible tragedy: "St. Xavier’s College has reached out to two remote villages in Dhading district providing the villagers with tarpaulin sheets to sleep under and basic food material. There is another relief material distribution underway in Kavre district. Many roads are blocked and so it is hard to reach by road in many places. We hope to reach out to some more villages where relief work has not been done so far."

Fr. Tigga also expressed his concern about the water and food supply. "As stored food and water supplies diminish, suffering will increase," he wrote. "In addition to providing medical care to those who were severely injured, medical teams are concerned about the possible outbreak of diseases, especially cholera, because of damage to the water supply system."

American Jesuit Father Greg Sharkey, who has worked in Nepal for many years, was flying from New York to Nepal when the April 25 earthquake hit. His plane was diverted to Hong Kong, where he remained until he was able to fly into Nepal. After arriving in Nepal, he sent this update: "Getting from the airport to my house [in Nepal] took more time than flying from Hong Kong to Kathmandu. I am happy to say that the house survived without serious damage, allowing us to use it as a command and communication center for relief works in our quarter of the city."

Pope Francis offered his prayers to all those affected by the earthquake and encouraged rescue and emergency workers in their efforts. "I pray for the victims, those wounded and for all those who suffer because of this calamity," Pope Francis said after reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square on April 26.

Before leading people in praying the Hail Mary together, he expressed his hope that those affected by the disaster would "have the support of fraternal solidarity." [Sources: CNSJesuits in BritainCaritasJesuit Conference of South Asia, The Guardian, BBC, CNN]

Follow the earthquake relief efforts by Nepal Jesuits on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sjrelief4nep.

This story will be updated as more details, including how to help, become available.

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