A 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal at 11:56 a.m. local time on Saturday, April 26, resulting in a death toll which is currently estimated at over 5,000. The earthquake’s effects prompted efforts by UR students to raise funds and remember victims of the earthquake.
Sigma Beta Rho (Sig Rho) hosted a candlelight vigil for Nepali earthquake victims at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29 with Association for the Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinent as a co-sponsor. Sig Rho brother and senior Digbijaya Thapa, who grew up in Nepal, organized the vigil and has thus far raised $3,230 for the Nepal relief fund.
Students, Rochester Nepali community members and Dean of Students Matthew Burns were among those in attendance. Participants held electronic candles and bowed their heads for a moment of silence. Thapa and junior Rabi Shrestha, also from Nepal, spoke to the crowd.
Thapa said in an interview that the main goal of the vigil was to “mourn for the lives that were lost, hope for the safe return of all the people” who have yet to be found and raise money for the Nepal earthquake relief fund.
Most of Thapa’s family lives near the earthquake’s epicenter. After hearing about the earthquake and its magnitude around 3 a.m. on Sunday, Thapa was “really shocked.”
“I tried to get in touch with [my family] for two to three hours,” he recalled. He was also
“shocked” to learn that Dharahara Tower, which Thapa likened to the “Eiffel Tower” of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, had been reduced to “pieces, like nothing existed.”
Most of Shrestha’s family lives in Kathmandu. He said that he thought he “was still dreaming” when he heard about it, and that he “had to really pinch myself so that I’d know that it was actually going on.”
“We’d been told many times that there would be a big one coming, that there was one due every 70 years and that we were five years overdue,” he noted. Still, he said, it was shocking because he “didn’t really think it would hit anytime soon.”
“The aftershocks are still going on,” he said. “My mom called me saying that the earth still shakes.”
His family moved into rescue camps in open areas after the earthquake hit because “you don’t want to go back in when the aftershocks are still going on” and “people are scared for their lives, so they don’t want to go back indoors.” He received news Wednesday morning that they had moved back indoors.
UR Black Students’ Union reserved Hirst Lounge for a vigil remembering Nepali earthquake victims from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. this Thursday, April 30. President Seligman is expected to make an appearance, and members of the Nepali community at UR and Rochester will record messages to their loved ones which will be posted online.
A two-day-old petition on the SA IMPACT website advocated for the ability to convert declining and URos into cash donations for victims of the earthquake. At press time, the petition had 358 signatures, which is well above the 250 signatures needed for SA to begin taking action. Incoming SA President and junior Grant Dever noted in the comments that it would be difficult to donate declining, but that URos could be easily donated.
Thapa and Shrestha stressed the importance of donating to credible organizations due to the prevalence of corruption in Nepal’s government.
Shrestha added that the “U of R community has been very supportive” and that it was “very comforting to know that even though I’m far away, there’s support here for my family, for my country, for myself.”
Lai is a member of
the class of 2018.