NEPAL Saving the Koirala family

 Emergency Response
 7th Oct 2008

It was still raining heavily when the 16-member Koirala family went to bed on the night of September 19. Just before retiring, Laxmi Koirala silently prayed to the rain gods. Incessant rain at this time of the year only meant two things – flooding and ruined rice fields, just before harvest time.

By early next morning, more water had seeped in and the levels were gradually rising. Clearly, Laxmi thought, the rain gods were not appeased. They lived close to the Mohana River and the village in Khakraula, Dhansinghpur had been marked off as a high risk area. Their village was going to be inundated, feared Laxmi. Hopes sank and the Koirala family clutched to one other and their belongings as the water rose up four feet from the ground.

Just then a voice boomed though a microphone. It gave clear instructions to families to come out of the houses and move towards higher ground. Help was at hand, and the Koirala family looked at each another in assurance. The Search and Rescue Team and some police personnel were on a boat and were moving from house to house. They finally reached the Koirala home and pulled out the family members, one by one.

All 16 members of the Koirala family were safe and relieved to be alive. “If the rescue team hadn’t spotted us in time, perhaps all of us would not have been alive today,” said a tear-stricken Laxmi.

Incessant monsoon rains has caused floods and landslides across western Nepal, displacing more than 180,000 families. Poorest communities were the hardest hit, and were the least prepared to cope with a disaster. CARE’s SAMADHAN II project (Community-based Disaster Risk Management Project), in partnership with the local organization Conscious Society Social Development, works with these communities in the disaster-prone region of Kailali to help them better withstand natural hazards and reduce the loss of lives or property.
“The Search and Rescue members had recently received Life Search and Rescue training from the Conscious Society Social Development organization and staff from the DIPECHO SAMADHAN II program of CARE Nepal. They used their skills for the rescue work during the emergency. It is a great achievement to have saved all 16 members of the Koirala family,” said Jibananda Koirala, response team member. Ten fully trained search and rescue members had been mobilized for the rescue operation while the first aid task force provided first aid to 50 flood-affected people.

In Laxmi’s village, 60 families were displaced by the flood. The emergency fund set up by the committee also came to good use, as beaten rice and biscuits bought from the fund were distributed to 87 families. CARE’s partner mobilized 14 staff, 220 Disaster Risk Reduction Committee members and 260 task force members during the emergency, who moved quickly and efficiently to save lives.

Even though we weren’t able to completely stop the disaster, investing in community preparedness saved families such as the Koiralas, provided immediate emergency supplies, and helped communities recover from the worst of the flood’s effects.

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