Alaska News

After devastating quake, Alaskans with ties to Nepal hope for news

For 10 hours after the massive earthquake that shook Nepal on Saturday, Anchorage resident Jeet Tamang couldn't reach his wife in Kathmandu.

The two had traveled to Nepal to see family in mid-April; he left on the 21st. His wife, Meena Tamang, a nurse at Providence Alaska Medical Center, planned to stay a week or two longer.

She was in Kathmandu when the magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck April 25, killing thousands and leveling buildings, historic monuments and holy sites.

Tamang tried and tried again to get through on his cellphone, only to be met with silence.

"First 10 hours were totally nothing," he said. "No rings. No nothing. It just said, 'Call cannot be completed.' "

Eventually, Tamang was able to reach his wife. She is OK, he said. But she is still in chaotic Kathmandu, which has been rattled by aftershocks.

The two have been able to connect for short bursts on the phone -- three or five minutes at most, he said. Conditions there seem to be getting worse, he said.


"They are cooking outside, camping, sleeping all over the floor with the neighbors, all together."

It's unclear whether she'll be able to leave on an already-scheduled flight home Thursday.

"We're hoping she can get out of there," he said.

Tamang is also fortunate that he has been able to reach his mother and sisters, who live in a rural village close to the epicenter.

"My mom didn't want to go out of the house (during the quake)," he said. "They had to forcefully drag her out."

David Dagley, a writer and builder and tugboat captain who calls Seward home when he's not traveling, is in the city of Pokhara, 150 miles northwest of Kathmandu.

"There are no ATMs, no banks and there is no water," he said Monday in a phone interview from Pokhara.

People are sleeping outside, he said. An aftershock rattled his hotel at 5 a.m. Monday, and he looked out the window to find he was the only one still inside.

Back in Anchorage, the Nepali community is banding together with an established local nonprofit that has for years worked to provide emergency care for people in Nepal.

"We're kind of helpless," Tamang said. "All we can try to do is just collect donations as soon as we can. And hopefully hand them to the right agency or nonprofit."

Linda "Jay" Jackson has long run the Anchorage-based Helping Hand for Nepal, which provides scholarships and emergency medical care funds, among other projects.

"Some of my co-workers are accounted for and some aren't," she said Monday.

Those she's been able to contact on Facebook or by phone say they are sheltering in tents and eating little. They have asked for more tents and water, Jackson said.

She has met with the Nepali community here to plan relief fundraiser efforts, all of which are still in the planning phases.

Proceeds from an annual fundraiser for Helping Hand for Nepal in partnership with Blaine's Art in Spenard will go to disaster relief, she said.

Jackson fears the extent of the devastation has only just begun to reveal itself.

"What we know about right now is Kathmandu," she said. "But Nepal is 90 percent rural. What's going on out there I hate to imagine."

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.