It was meant to be a family occasion. The funeral anniversary of an uncle’s wife. Monks mingled with guests. Seconds later, many were lying dead.
This was the horrifying account of the death and destruction wreaked by the recent earthquake in Nepal as witnessed by Galashiels resident, Ongdi Sherpa.
Born in the small village of Dimbul high in the Himalayas, Ongdi is now safely back home in Galashiels with wife Alison and young daughter, Tamzin.
And he has now launched a fundraising effort to help victims of the earthquake and start the rebuilding of his homeland which has suffered widespread devastation, with more than 7,500 dead and thousands missing.
This week, Ongdi told how he had returned to Nepal for the funeral anniversary and to visit his parents in their tiny mountain village of just 37 small houses.
“After 18 hours in a jeep and a three-day walk, I was finally reunited with my parents after two years,” said Ongdi, who works in the Subway sandwich shop in Galashiels. “As you can imagine, I was extremely happy to see them after such a long time.”
But just hours following his arrival back in Kathmandu, after saying farewell to his parents and relatives in Dimbul, Ongdi and others at the open-air anniversary funeral service found the ground starting to shake violently, as nearby buildings collapsed.
Ongdi told us: “Luckily, the funeral anniversary was being held in an open field, as there was about 300 people there. All the monks had just started having lunch and were carrying plates when the ground started to shake really badly.
“People were screaming and being thrown from one side to the other. About six of us grabbed onto a big tree and were just trying to hold on. The tree was swaying and then a wall collapsed, killing four people right in front of me.”
Virtually every single house in Dimbul now lies in ruins, although thankfully Ongdi’s parents survived.
Ongdi himself was forced to spend a week in a tent and a shed at Kathmandu before friends in Caddonfoot, Robert and Ann Grieve, generously helped with the cost of air fare so he could catch an earlier flight back to the UK.
“Somehow I survived and managed to leave the country, but after being in this horror, my heart cries for my village in Nepal,” said Ongdi. “That’s why I set up a website – to raise money to help rebuild it as beautiful as it once was.”
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