About 50 members of the Society of Nepalese in Hawaii gathered Saturday to discuss the massive earthquake that killed more than 1,800 and to begin seeking donations to send to Nepal, said group member Surendra KC.
The magnitude-7.8 quake struck Nepal about noon Saturday (8:10 p.m. Friday Hawaii time), collapsing buildings in the capital of Kathmandu and injuring more than 5,000. The death toll was expected to climb.
KC, a University of Hawaii at Manoa doctoral student, said the developing nation — which sits between India and China — went through about two decades of political instability, leaving the country unprepared for its worst quake in more than 80 years.
“I’m so sad,” he said. “So many people are dying, and so many people are suffering.”
KC said he spoke with his brother who lives near Kathmandu and heard that while his family is okay and no one died in his village, some houses were destroyed.
He said about 150 Nepalese live in Hawaii, with many coming to the islands for higher education and staying to work as researchers or professors.
Those with friends in Nepal were also trying to find out if they were safe.
Anna Stirr, an assistant professor in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, did field work for her doctorate in Nepal and is writing a book on Nepali music.
She said some friends were able to use a Google or Facebook tool to indicate that they are safe, but she was still awaiting word from numerous friends in rural areas.
“It’s been nerve-wracking,” she said.
She said some friends she had spoke to told her their villages were reduced to rubble.
Jan Brunson, an assistant professor at UH, said two UH doctoral students are in Nepal doing research and have reported that they are OK.
Brunson, an anthropologist who has spent several years in Nepal, was relieved to find that her host family was unhurt, but she worried about residents’ access to water, which has always been a problem in the Kathmandu Valley.
She said it is also uncommon to have home insurance in Nepal.
“The destitute are going to suffer very badly in the coming weeks because rebuilding is going to take awhile, and relief efforts are going to take awhile to reach the population,” she said.
To contact the group to find out how to donate go to esneha.org
The Associated Press contributed to this report.