When the deadly earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday, it destroyed parts of Kathmandu, the capital, bringing down historic temples and monuments that have been standing for more than 100 years. More than 3,800 people have been killed and more than 7,000 reported injured, while rescue efforts continue throughout the country.
Given the remoteness of the country, very little information is coming from outside the capital — only on Monday, three days after the quake, did Nepal's army fly choppers to three rural districts. These outlying areas are thought to have been hit the hardest by the quake and its continuing aftershocks.
One of those villages is Barpak, a tiny, vibrant settlement of about 1,200 homes in Gorkha district, site of the quake's epicenter. Even by Nepal's remote standards, getting to Barpak is not easy.
Manash Shrestha, a PhD student at Mahidol University in Bangkok, traveled to Barpak in 2009 as part of a team conducting a dental camp in the village. He said his team rode on a bus for five hours from Kathmandu and then trekked for nearly eight hours because there were no paved roads at the time.
"We could only see the village after reaching the top of a hill," Shrestha said. "I couldn't believe that such a picturesque village would be awaiting us when we got there."
Barpak is mostly home to the Ghale people, an ethnic group known for its martial prowess; many of its members join the army, especially the British Gurkha regiment. Shrestha said that every other house in the village had a son in the British, Indian or Nepali army. "The houses that belonged to British Gurkhas looked slightly more modern and decorated," he said. Because most of the young men worked in the military and outside the village, Shrestha said, he mostly saw only women, children and older men during the six-day dental camp.
"The village has a basic health post, and many rely on traditional healers who claim to get rid of their health problems," he added. It would take at least two days of walking to get to the nearest modern hospital, and only rich villagers could afford to get to Kathmandu.
Today, Barpak is almost entirely destroyed.
90 percnt of approx 1000 homes n huts reduced ro rubble in Barpak Larpak area.
— Ram Sharan Mahat (@ramsmahat) April 25, 2015
By Sunday evening, the Nepali army had rescued at least 120 people from Barpak and the surrounding villages in Gumbu, Jaubari and Kharikot. Setopati, a major online news portal, said the majority of those injured have head and feet injuries. Ranbir Gurung, who traveled to the city of Pokhara with his injured sister, told Setopati that about 1,200 homes have been destroyed in Barpak.
According to Ujyaalo Online, only four out of the 1,200 homes are still standing. As many as 700 villagers are estimated to be dead.
Gurung took this picture, below, before leaving the village.
— Andy Revkin (@Revkin) April 26, 2015
Shrestha said he recalls most villagers gathering around a central chautari, a stone structure usually built around a tree, where children would play, women would meet and chat, and older men would drink and relax.
Below are images from Barpak from 2009 that show a thriving community and its people.
As night fell Monday, army helicopters returned from another round of rescue operations focused on villages in Gorkha. The death toll is expected to climb.
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