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Newsworthy EventI'm Amrit - I grew up in Nepal, and have been here since shortly after the M7.8 Earthquake rocked the country. Ask me almost anything!

May 4th 2015 by 0096147 • 36 Questions • 1849 Points

I'm Amrit Sharma, I grew up in Kathmandu and then moved to Minneapolis in 2004, where I lived for a decade, before I set off on an adventure to just travel about 6 months ago.

I was in Delhi when the earthquake rocked Nepal. I bought a airplane ticket right away and flew here the next day.

I've been actively tweeting and blogging since the earthquake last Saturday, April 25th.

Twitter: @amrit_sharma

Blog: http:[email protected]_sharma

If you want to learn more about what's going on in Nepal, here are some posts:

  • 127 hours later (feat. James Franco): read here

  • Bhaktapur - an in-depth look at the town everyone loves: read here

  • How can I help from outside the country: read here

  • Everyday heroes emerge after the earthquake: read here

Ask me almost anything. I will answer them through out the day, and then at night (approx. 11pm Nepal time), I will live stream on PERISCOPE.

PROOF: tweet tweet.

Talk to you soon.

Q:

Are you aware of how difficult it is to operate a relief flight into Kathmandu right now? We have been trying to operate a wide body freighter with 45 tons of relief cargo from the worlds largest humanitarian agency and we have not been able to do so because of bureaucratic nonsense. Permits are not being issued for us to operate the flight. The airport is not being managed properly and is causing many 100's of tonnes of relief aid to not reach Nepal. I am wondering if this is known by the people in Nepal?

A:

That's right. I did hear about this. The last I heard was that the TIA airport in KTM is closed to large heavy planes due to the damage it's caused the runway already. We have a basic international airport. It only has 1 runway. It's a miracle that it wasn't damaged in the M7.8 earthquake or the subsequent aftershocks.

I agree that the airport is mismanaged and they could be doing a lot of things much better. But my speculative opinion is that they're right on this one. We can't afford to lose the one runway we have in our only international airport.

Do you have Jeff Bezos' number? Maybe we can put all the relief in those Amazon Delivery drones and fly them into Kathmandu and across the country.


Q:

There is very restrictive max landing weight limit at the airport and studies by 'experts' have decided that the run way is actually ok. So lets hope things improve soon.

A:

I hope for the same too. Thank you for reply, and thank you for doing what you can to help Nepal.


Q:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pRDhs6Mmzo

His name is Rajdeep Sardesai, and he held a ludicrous biased campaign against the current Prime Minister of India, even thought he should be NEUTRAL as a journalist. India Media is scary corrupt.

The pseudo-secular mods of r/india do a good job of shutting down people who criticize pseudo-secular Indian Media. I switched to /r/indianews , the posts are weird there sometimes, but at least I can say whatever I want there without being censored.

A:

Yeah. Haha. That too. I saw that video. He totally deserved that one.


Q:

Fuck, this is like Nightcrawler the movie, expect that was supposed to a cautionary tale of where we could be heading but clearly we are already there. Well im depressed

A:

Yep.


Q:

well said.

A:

Yep.


Q:

Why would the Indian media be behaving badly? I'm confused

A:

Read this and this. I didn't write these articles.


Q:

Can you give us a description of what things are looking like where you are right now? I know there has been some difficulty in the US being able to distribute aid fast enough due to the rough terrain and other logistic issues. Curious about your thoughts on that.

A:

Not to be lazy, but let me first link you to these 2 blog posts: (1) 127 hours after the earthquake (feat. James Franco), and (2) Bhaktapur - the town every loves.

Alright to sum it up.

  1. Kathmandu got really lucky. I have been saying that since I got here. The roads and bridges are in good condition. Our international airport that only has 1 runway was undamaged. I can't even imagine the extent of the troubles if we didn't have a functioning runway.

  2. Outside Kathmandu, it's a different story. Depending on how far the regions were from the epicenters, there's a LOT of damage, or not at all. Sindupalchowk took the brunt of the major aftershock (M6.7) on Sunday, April 26th.

  3. Yes, you're right. Red tape in the Nepali government is no uncommon at all. It's just frustrating to hear of the examples -- Nepali Customs weren't allows relief material into the country. Several countries were complaining about the unorganized processes at the airport. I met a team of South Africans (mentioned them in the Bhaktapur blog post), and they told me their equipment is stuck in Singapore because the KTM airport is over capacity and can not accommodate their search and rescue equipment. Plus, the UK AID (ISAR) folks told me that the Nepali Army didn't give them the helicopters they had been promised to run critical search and rescue missions in Sindupalchowk district. I could go on... but you get the point.


Q:

It breaks my heart when I see the pictures of damaged shrines and homes.

The Indian people are fully with Nepal. My whole family sent money and clothes just yesterday along with a bunch of people in our community.

A:

thanks.


Q:

How can I really help? I've donated to the red cross, but that's it.

A:

That's a good question. I blogged about it here, but I still struggle with answering this question. Let me brainstorm again.

Here are some ideas:

1) Search LinkedIn for connections that may be from Nepal, or had previously lived/worked there. Call them and make sure they're ok.

2) Do the same search on Facebook. You may have gone to college with someone who's from there.

3) Keep paying attention. Don't let the next news cycle get Nepal out of your mind.

4) Retweet and share stories of Nepal earthquake relief and recovery.

5) Visit Nepal. You can directly impact the livelihoods of people here by bringing yourself here, and encouraging others to as well.

6) What do YOU all think? How can someone outside help Nepal? (let's get creative with it)

P.S. Damn. I should add these to my blog post. Thanks for asking this question. You brought out new ideas here.


Q:

Should people really visit Nepal now? Wouldn't they get in the way of the aid operation?

A:

Yeah, you're right. Probably best to hold off for a month or two. What's your schedule like in July? I'll send you an Outlook meeting invite.


Q:

Or donate the money you would spend on a plane ticket - even better.... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/27/earthquake-nepal-dont-rush-help-volunteers-aid

A:

That's an excellent article.


Q:

She is a friend of mine. She has great advice and is one of the most ethical people I know.

A:

Awesome. Please tell her Amrit from Nepal sends her a High Five. I have sent that article to several people in the past week.


Q:

You should have seen the way they handled Mumbai terror attacks. Absolutely disgusting. Even the most famous Indian "journalists" were behaving like morons. I won't be be surprised if they were the same in Nepal too.

A:

Right. I wasn't in India at the time, but the most ludacris thing I saw was the TV media sharing details about the phone calls from the hostages (or people trapped) INSIDE the hotel, including exactly where they were hiding. The "bad guys" were obviously being fed information from the handles, and just walked towards the staircase where several people were hiding, and shot them all. (If I recall correctly, one of the people in that group survived.)

Yeah. The main issue here isn't that Nepal is frustrated with the Indian Media. But that the India Media has lost it's moral compass, and will stoop to any level (however low it is) for ratings and try to get a bigger share of the lucrative Indian TV ad budgets up for grabs.


Q:

Do you get mad when people say you are wrong?

A:

What do you mean? Wrong about what?


Q:

just a joke about your name, amrite / am i right

A:

bahahaha... that was so subtle and original. I've never gotten that before. :)


Q:

I am very sorry for all the people suffering. Does Nepal have financial resources to deal with this kind of catastrophe and are you receiving enough aid? What is the hardest thing to deal with right now (as in water, food, medical personnel etc...)?

A:

Short answer is no, Nepal doesn't have enough resources of it's own. But it has received a LOT of international support.

Kathmandu is fine. It's the outside regions, especially with older buildings that are really badly hit. Please read my blog posts about Bhaktapur[https:[email protected][email protected]the-town-everyone-loves-in-nepal-5f5bb5dfe318] and Sindupakchowk district. That will give you a better idea about the unique challenges.

But, short answer, the hardest thing right now is getting food, water and tents to the thousands of villages/town that have been flattened. They're in dire need for immediate assistance, and first aid (or heli evac to hospitals).


Q:

Ah, thanks for responding!

A:

:)


Q:

Any recent news concerning Ramche village in Sindhupalchok district?

A:

Any news about the Ramche village? I havne't seen that village mentioned in the news.

But, I was in Sindhupalchok district on Saturday and it is bad. It is really bad. I am not familiar with Ramche village in particular, but I looked at it on the map. You should read my blog post here to get a general idea. But specifically, here's what I can share:

  1. Map of Ramche village - It's right on the road, and that is a huge advantage. It's easier for volunteers from KTM and relief trucks from India to deliver aid there. That's good for the short term and long term. Plus, it's easier to get victims to/from hospitals.
  2. It's East of Chautra - google maps link. I was at Chautra and the UK AID (from the ISAR - international search and rescue) folks, and what they told me wasn't pretty. It's in my blog that I linked above. But the epicenter of the aftershock at 1pm on Sunday has "totally flattened" several villages that they personally inspected. Their advanced team drove 2 hours till the roads end, and walked for 6 hours to find villages completely flattened with upto 80% fatality rates. I don't know and can't speculate whether the Ramche village region was similarly affected by it.

Any other questions?


Q:

Hi, thanks for the reply...I had seen your blog post in my previous searching! So, what I can gather generally is I will have to wait patiently...Sounds like access to Tatopani and tibet border is still limited on the araniko highway...Ramche is right above barabise, a ways after where the huge land slide was last year...so like you say in 1. they are close to the road relatively....otherwise, not looking good for my fiends there :( just wait and hope. is there still electricity in the region?

A:

There was no electricity on the road we took up to Chautara. Although we did see one truck with repairmen looking at it.

Yeah, sit tight and wait for now. I really hope they're alright. Do you have a phone number where your friends can be reached?


Q:

Does the toilet paper roll go on under or over?

A:

over.


Q:

How are the people coping? How are you coping? I can't comprehend what it must feel like to lose everything, belongings, livelihoods, family and friends, your national heritage buildings and monuments.

A:

I'm in Kathmandu, and Kathmandu got lucky in this earthquake. It could have been much worse here. I'm ok right now. Today, it started to dawn on me that the cultural/historical loss is inexplicable. We have lost much here. It was 2-3 minutes, and centuries old statues and temples were reduced to bricks and dust. I've met people who have lost everything, and I can't even imagine what they're going through. It's bad man. I hope I can express my feelings and thoughts more eloquently when it's all sunk in and I've processed it all.


Q:

How severely do you think this will set back Nepal's development in the long run? Or will the sudden influx of aid make up for it? How long does it look like it will take to heal?

A:

We don't know the answers to those questions yet. We don't yet know the scope of the problem.

For example: Will entire towns have to be demolished because there are very few buildings that are still standing and are safe enough to live in? Read my post about Bhaktapur for more.


Q:

Could you describe your experience growing up in Nepal? And secondly, What do you think is the best thing other countries, people could do to improve the situation?

A:

I don't know how to answer that first question. It was good. Kathmandu is a very comfortable city to live in. The weather's great all year round. The people are very nice. We had some political turmoil in the 90s and early 00's, but somehow life just went on.

I blogged about the second question, and commented above too.


Q:

I have a friend from Nepal, also living in Kathmandu, who is worried that at least some aid is going into the pockets of government officials.

Is there any truth to his worries or is he being paranoid?

A:

I don't have proof, and I'm not privy to any nefarious dealings, but c'mon man, this is Nepal. This isn't even a developing country, it's a "least developed country". Corruption is not uncommon here, and I wouldn't be surprised if quite a bit of it was ending up in the pockets of the officials.


Q:

How are your family and friends? How are you coping, yourself?

Where do you think individuals can best direct our donations? Do you see any groups that really have a strong presence on the ground now?

A:

My family, friends and I are all safe and well, thank you!

I am coping well so far. I almost cried today, but held it back. It's been a challenging week here in Nepal. I mean, I've lost count of how many conversations I've had where the person tears up because they've lost their homes, their clothes, and have no idea where their next meal will come from.

I wrote a blog post about "how to help nepal from outside". You should donate where you are most comfortable and most confident that all the donations will go directly into aid on the ground, and not in overhead administrative costs.

In my blog post I have highlight the relief efforts from the SEBS (society of ex-BNKS students). It's graduates from my high school that are running it. It's a 501c3 registered non-profit in USA. The folks running it are highly educated, have immense local knowledge (as many come from villages throughout the country), and 100% of the money will go into relief efforts. I trust them because I know them and am comfortable recommending them.

You're welcome to contribute to any relief organization that has a Nepal Fund. There's a list in that blog post I linked to.

Yes, I am seeing groups on the ground. The most visible are the 'search and rescue' teams from the different countries. I have seen UK, Israel, Korea, South Africa and China in the past 2 days. // Oh, you meant, groups that you could donate to. Hmmm... I see at least one Red Cross symbol when I travel anywhere here.


Q:

What did you do when you felt the earthquake shaking the ground?

A:

I wasn't here for Saturday's big earthquake. I flew in on the first commercial flight here. I have felt 5 aftershocks here (about 4.8 and higher.)

I usually just assume that I'm dizzy or have lost my balance. It's not very obvious that it's as an earthquake. But when I realize it's an earthquake, I scuttle to get outdoors and move away from the buildings.


Q:

Aside from the #indianmediagohome thing, how are we Indians helping you? How's the response from India over there? I sure hope we are not fucking anything up.

A:

India has been fantastic. Everyone I have spoken to speaks highly about India's swift response and tireless efforts to bring in relief supplies, and evacuate anyone who wanted to GTFO. So far, it's getting high reviews and wining over many people here in Nepal.


Q:

That's good to hear. I really wish Nepal a speedy recovery and relief. I too donated to a relief organisation. It was as much I could do as a broke student. On a lighter vein, #dontcomebackindianmedia is also trending on Twitter, we don't wan't those insensitive idiots either.

A:

Haha. Thank you.


Q:

Are you related to a Schwadin Sharma?

He's one of my teachers, he's from Nepal, and he's really awesome. I'm actually procrastinating for his test right now!

A:

Haha. That's so crazy. Yes, I just sent him a text that BurnadictCumbersnat is procrastinating.

(No, not really. I don't know him.)


Q:

Bro, if you ever decide to take Management information systems at Mississippi State university, just don't. Even if the teacher has your last name, it's like watching paint dry.

A:

Bahahaha... this made me laugh out loud. I'll keep that in mind dude. Thanks for the heads up. Now get back to watching paint dry for your test.


Q:

Do you plan on coming back to Minnesota? I am a board member for a student organization at St. Cloud State University called Helping Nepal International. If you do come back to the states would you ne willing to talk about your experiences and your ideas to where Nepal will need more support in the future?

A:

Would love to. Do you know Eta Shrestha? Or heard of her at St. Cloud State? She graduated several years ago and is back here in KTM. She's running an excellent relief aid effort out of her house here.


Q:

I have not, I have only been a part of the Nepalese community here for a few years, maybe some of our older students have. Does she have 501C status? We are looking for a smaller organization to donate our money we have raised the past week.

A:

Don't know. I don't think so. It's just a temporary operation to provide aid to anyone that needs it right now.


Q:

What is the prevalence of Nepal experiencing such a strong earthquake on an annual basis. What will be the government's next step in helping its citizens? How is the situation like now in Nepal?

A:

It doesn't happen. The last big earthquake was in the 1930s. We lost 10,000 lives back then.

Government's next steps? LOL. I have no idea. Just have to wait and see. I'm still not sure about their first few steps so far.

How's the situation like now in Nepal? Please read the blog posts I mentioned in the OP.


Q:

Have any of the Maobadi parties in Nepal, e.g. UCPN(M), CPN-M, etc. helped in any relief work?

A:

Good question. I don't know. I haven't paid attention to the local politics.


Q:

In your opinion, how well has foreign aid responded to this issue? Has it been swift or belated? Do you notice an abundance of aid from one country over another or has it all been pretty uniform?

A:

The foreign aid to Nepal has been swift, but due to incompetence of local authorities, I've heard any reports and examples of aid not being distributed to the people in need.

Breakdown of aid from different countries and organizations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanitarian_response_to_the_2015_Nepal_earthquake


Q:

Has anyone considered the possibility of air dropping supplies instead of landing the heavy lift aircrafts?

A:

Probably. I'm not privy to such decisions. I hope they have an alternative if large cargo planes really aren't an option.