In Nepal villages near quake epicenter, people take aid into their own hands

Story highlights

  • "We heard people needed help. So we came," says a teenager who brought supplies
  • Villagers say aid trucks are passing them by on the way to the earthquake's epicenter

Arkul Bazar, Nepal (CNN)In this tiny village squeezed between two mountains, the earthquake left only one home habitable out of the 36 that once stood.

Just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the epicenter of the powerful quake that has decimated parts of Nepal, villagers say they are being neglected by the government and international organizations.
    They say aid trucks have driven past toward the epicenter without dropping anything off, bypassing their village and others nearby.
    One group that did stop here is Santosh Dawadi and his parents.
    They returned from Kathmandu, the capital, to their home village in Gorkha district to check on Dawadi's brother, who still lives here with his family.
    "We can't help, because we lost everything, too. But at least we could be here," said Dawadi, 26.

    'We heard people needed help'

    Across this shattered region, many people are taking a do-it-yourself approach to aid.
    Robin Rijal and a group of college friends drove their motorbikes for more than nine hours down bad roads to bring supplies to hard-hit villagers.
    "We heard people needed help," Rijal said. "So we came."
    With two of them on each bike, the 10 friends brought a tent, biscuits and other food to the stricken area.
    Along the road toward the epicenter, a local paragliding organization that does community work in the region had set up a makeshift medical clinic, where a mother and her baby were being treated for dehydration.
    A long line of people carrying belongings on their back trudged along the mud-clogged road in search of food and shelter. A teenage girl lugged a suitcase on her back. Younger children piggybacked on their bigger siblings.
    They are part of the vast wave of suffering unleashed across this Himalayan nation by Saturday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake, which has killed more than 5,000 people.

    'We didn't know what had happened'

    To reach the wreckage of the village where he grew up, Dawadi left broken dreams behind him in Kathmandu.
    He had recently invested everything he had in a hotel in the capital, using money he spent six years toiling in Qatar to save up. The earthquake ruined the hotel, cracking the walls, shattering the windows and trashing the furniture.
    With two of his fingers bandaged from the broken glass, he says he and his parents were relieved to find out his brother's family out here in the mountains had survived the disaster.
    "We were so happy because we didn't know what had happened. We had heard from some other villagers, but we couldn't get in touch with people here," he said.
    They eventually got word that "everybody was safe."
    Dawadi's journey to the broken remains of his village is one being made by many people across Nepal.
    In Kathmandu, huge lines have formed to wait for buses out to the provinces. Protesters have complained of price hikes by bus companies and a lack of assistance from the government.

    Sprinting from collapsing home

    In Arkul Bazar, people live camped out in the open, enduring the frequent rain and fearing the continuing aftershocks.
    Kushma Gurung, 15, says she was at home with her father when they felt the first tremor. They sprinted outside. Moments later, the house collapsed behind them.
    Higher up in the mountains, villagers say, boulders came crashing down the hillside, crushing people who were cutting grass and leaves to feed their animals.
    Some people from higher-altitude villages, where all the homes have been destroyed, come down paths strewn with the rubble of damaged buildings to seek food and shelter.
    But a lot of the supplies coming into the region are getting caught in bottlenecks before they get near these villages. Those who are helping out say they're still waiting for the big professional aid organizations to arrive.
    Help is many hours walk away. Some roads are cut off by landslides. The heavy rain has swollen streams into rivers.
    The people here are just trying to survive day to day.