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Tears of a child as Nepalis cremate quake dead

JAJARKOT: The wails of eight-year-old Prem Kala Kami echoed across her Nepali village on Sunday (Nov 5), as the shroud-wrapped bodies of her parents and two of her brothers lay beside her awaiting cremation.

The remote village of Chiuri was one of the worst-hit places when a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck western Nepal late on Friday.

It has only about 40 houses, all of them now reduced to rubble or heavily damaged, and 13 of its residents died.

Sitting under a tarpaulin shelter with relatives and neighbours mourning the loss, Prem Kala’s uncle held her as she wept, a fresh white bandage wrapped around her finger.

“After the quake we rushed to their house to rescue them but only found bodies,” her uncle Kalpali BK told AFP, his surname an abbreviation commonly used among Dalit people in Nepal for Bishwokarma.

“There were seven people in the family,” he said. “Four died.”

Prem Kala is the youngest child in the family. The only other siblings to survive, her sister and one of her brothers, were away when the quake struck.

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Once the gathering finished mourning, the bodies, draped with garlands of marigolds, were carried to the riverside on biers for cremation, in accordance with Hindu principles.

Chiuri is a farming settlement in a valley in Jajarkot district, where most of the earthquake’s at least 157 victims died.

Many families suffered losses. One weeping woman carried the body of her grandson to his bier, wrapped in a bright orange shawl.

The whole village spent the night after the quake digging bodies and survivors out from the rubble of their homes.

Khumbaya Magar was woken by the quake and fled his house before the structure gave way, only to learn that his daughter and her family were missing.

“I found out that my daughter, son-in-law and grandson had all been hit. We pulled out the bodies from their houses,” he said.

Many survivors spent the night under the open sky.

“We didn’t sleep. We spent the night pulling bodies out,” said Prajit BK.

“There were about 40 families here, but all houses have turned to dust. There is no place to stay, nothing to eat.”

Rescue efforts were called off on Sunday after officials confirmed 105 people had died in Jajarkot and another 52 in neighbouring Rukum district.

Nepal lies on a major geological faultline where the Indian tectonic plate pushes up into the Eurasian plate, forming the Himalayas, and earthquakes are a regular occurrence.

Nearly 9,000 people died and more than 22,000 were injured in 2015 when a 7.8 magnitude quake struck the country, destroying more than half a million homes.

Friday’s tremor was felt as far away as India’s capital New Delhi, nearly 500km from the epicentre.

“We helped out as much as we could,” said survivor Kesari Kumai BK in Chiuri.

“We managed to save my sister-in-law. But we lost so many others.”

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