Many in the Nepalese community in Seattle are waiting to hear from relatives back home and beginning to figure out how to raise money to offer earthquake relief.
They spoke in soft tones, some barely able to hold back emotion, shaken by what they had heard so far and dreading what they expect to hear in the days ahead.
Members of Seattle organizations with ties to Nepal had planned to gather at the University of Washington on Saturday for a festive Nepali New Year’s celebration. Instead they brainstormed about the quickest and most effective way to get help to that stricken country.
Dr. Nitin Thapa, of the Nepal Seattle Society, told of his hurried phone conversations with physicians in Kathmandu and the almost unimaginable scene they faced:
How to help
These are among the agencies accepting donations:
• World Vision: worldvision.org or 888-562-4453 (weekdays)
• World Concern: www.worldconcern.org/nepal or 800-755-5022 (weekdays)
• CARE: www.care.org or 800-422-7385
• Nepal Seattle Society: www.nepalseattle.org
“They are treating patients in the street because the hospital rooms are all full,” he said. “They are carrying patients from floor to floor because the elevators don’t work because the building has been damaged. They are very near to running out of blood and running out of IV fluid.”
Several speakers said they expect the earthquake’s death toll to rise sharply as searchers comb through the rubble that is all that remains of some entire neighborhoods.
About 40 members of local organizations gathered at the University of Washington Saturday evening, opening with a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives in the quake.
“The country is going through such a painful situation,” said Nihit Pokhrel, who was born and raised in Nepal and is pursuing her doctorate in chemistry at the UW.
Before the news broke late Friday night, she had a laundry list of finishing touches to do for the Nepalese Student Association Nepali New Year’s celebration. But after her mother called at 1:30 a.m. to tell her “the entire house was shaking for three minutes” and reports surfaced of devastation in her home country, Pokhrel knew a celebration was not in order.
Speakers at the gathering urged Seattle area residents to donate through the Red Cross and to contact their congressional representatives, to urge them to speed relief funds to the stricken areas.
The magnitude-7.8 earthquake originated outside Kathmandu, according to The Associated Press, and the death toll continues to rise.
Pokhrel, 24, knows her parents, who live in Pokhara, are safe, but as of Saturday afternoon she didn’t know about the rest of her family in Kathmandu. She got a text from her father about 9 a.m., assuring her “we are ok,” but she said she didn’t know who the “we” was.
The one reassurance she has is that a cousin used Facebook’s new Safety Check feature, reporting to friends and family she is OK.
“If she is safe, hopefully the entire family is safe — my aunt and uncle and grandma.”
After wrapping up a family dinner in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, Michael Gurung saw Friday night that he had missed several text messages.
“Someone said a 7.9 hit Kathmandu city, and we knew that was a big one,” he said.
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Gurung, raised in Kathmandu, moved to the Seattle area 19 years ago to attend the UW, but his family is in Nepal, he said.
His parents called from a landline, but as of Saturday afternoon he had not heard from his brother and sister. “My siblings and their family are probably out in a field somewhere and the network is jammed up,” he said.
Gurung and his father-in-law, Mohan Gurung, president of the Nepal Seattle Society, spent Saturday fielding calls from area residents and mobilizing fundraising. The society estimates the Seattle-area Nepalese community at 3,000 to 4,000 people.
The society has also organized a prayer service for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Bothell Hindu Temple, 3818 212th St. S.E.
Federal Way-based World Vision was working to find and ensure the safety of its 200 staff and a number of international staff at a workshop in Nepal. Saturday afternoon, at least 25 were in a hotel in Kathmandu.