Quake Update – Emergency Aid Reaching Jyekundo
Lyndon Comstock of the Konchok Foundation offers the following Jyekundo Earthquake Relief Update, a composite report of conversations with Surmang leadership from April 21 to 23.
Khenpo Tsering said that the situation in Jyekundo as to relief supplies had improved somewhat in the last couple of days. More people have gotten some food. More importantly, one of the monasteries went out and bought a large number of coats somewhere, he thought several thousand coats, and passed them out. He said a lot of them are really good winter coats. That was a big help, in this cold weather, to a number of the people who haven’t been able to recover adequate clothing from the wreckage of their house.
Emergency Food Distribution
Everyone in Jyekundo has received at least some food aid by now, much of it in the form of packages of instant noodles (ramen). This is obviously helpful in an emergency but the Tibetans greatly prefer their more hearty staple food, tsampa. Those monasteries and NGOs that have had supplies of tsampa have been distributing it but there hasn’t been enough to go around.
Accordingly, Khenpo Tsering arranged for 40,000 pounds of barley flour and yak butter for tsampa to be trucked in to Jyekundo. He worked out a distribution plan with local neighborhood officials in a series of neighborhoods and said that the food got out to those who needed it within a couple of hours of arriving in Jyekundo.
He commented that families have probably had to spend a portion of the emergency assistance to buy food. Originally they had to send people out to other places where food could still be purchased. Now there are also a number of little stands that have sprung up in the streets of Jyekundo selling small amounts of food and bottled water. However, he’s hoping that the families haven’t had to immediately spend all of the assistance money and are able to conserve some of it to help get themselves back on their feet during the forthcoming rebuilding period.
Reports indicate that donor trucks headed for Jyekundo are now being allowed to bypass the roadblocks on the roads to Jyekundo and proceed directly to the city. A little bit of commercial activity is starting to reappear, albeit all taking place outdoors, some of it in tents.
He commented that he saw a group of thirty or forty nuns by the side of a road in Jyekundo, praying for those were killed in the earthquake.
Longterm Housing Issues
Khenpo Tsering and Aten Rinpoche are continuing to meet with, and provide support to, poor families living in Jyekundo who had moved there from nearby rural areas. He said all of the Vidyadhara’s relatives who are living in Jyekundo are alive and have not been injured. Their house is not habitable but they’re in better shape than many people. He’s going to pay them another visit and he’s also going to give them a little money to help out with their expenses from having lost their house.
Khenpo said that he believes that the government has made an announcement that it will take responsibility for rebuilding all of Jyekundo, including all residences, and that it will take about five years to accomplish. There hasn’t been any announcement yet of the plan for housing people during the rebuilding period. There is already heavy equipment in the central ‘downtown’ area of Jyekundo, starting to clean up the rubble there. The Tibetans think that a lot of additional bodies will be found as the rubble is cleared away. Khenpo said that more of the people who do have another home elsewhere are getting ready to move out of Jyekundo.
Special Thanks from Khenpo
I told him that–in addition to the Boulder event on the 18th–Dorje Denma Ling, the Toronto Shambhala Center, the Halifax Shambhala Center and Sharchen Dzong in San Francisco had special programs to practice for the earthquake victims and that Bob and Lindy King and I had been on the phone with the Halifax Shambhala Center to talk about the earthquake relief effort. He replied with his thanks to all of the people who participated.
Khenpo Tsering thanks me every time I speak to him for people who are practicing on behalf of those affected or killed by the earthquake. Also, for those who have generously donated the money which he and his Surmang colleagues have been distributing as emergency aid, or using to buy supplies, for the people of Jyekundo.
Those expressions of thanks are quite vivid as I hear them. They’re being given by a man, talking on a cell phone, standing in the midst of a city of 100,000 people that has been almost entirely reduced to rubble, in which thousands of people lost their lives or were injured ten days ago. He himself lost five or six of his relatives. I can hear the background noise of people speaking in Tibetan or babies crying or an occasional vehicle going by as I’m speaking to him. No one is living indoors in this city, even though the weather is still freezing at this time of year. These thanks, which he is directing to you, unfortunately, I can’t fully recreate for you the way that they have been expressed…
Perhaps some day you will be able to travel to this region and directly meet the people, our relatives, who live there and that you are helping. This city has been a vital cultural and economic center for our people for many centuries. It was already an important crossroads area in the 7th century, when the first Buddhist king of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, met his Chinese wife, Princess Wencheng, nearby. It’s the hub through which all roads pass in this region, part of the heartland of Kham. This is our market town. One must hope that it will still be able to well serve these roles when it re-emerges from the rebuilding process in a few years.
Although Konchok Foundation will probably pull back a bit from doing daily update reports going forward, we will still continue to provide frequent updates on the relief efforts in Jyekundo. The Shambhala Times will continue to feature these updates.