TIME Nepal

Here’s How Much the Nepal Earthquake Moved Mount Everest

Mount Everest Nepal Earthquake Moved
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images A view of Mount Everest towering over the Nupse, from the village of Tembuche in the Khumbu region of northeastern Nepal on April 20, 2015.

The April 25 quake left more than 8,500 people dead

The earthquake that struck Nepal was powerful enough to move a mountain, Chinese authorities said Monday.

Mount Everest shifted three centimeters southwest after the 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25, according to data from a satellite set up in 2005 by China’s National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, its state-run news organization Xinhua reports. That’s a significant movement for Mount Everest, which the agency said has moved only 4 cm. annually on average between 2005 and 2015 due to crustal movements.

Authorities said the geophysical impact of the devastating quake, which left more than 8,500 people dead, did not change the height of the world’s tallest peak, at some 29,000 feet.

[Xinhua]

TIME Nepal

Heritage Sites Damaged in the Nepalese Quake Have Reopened Despite Safety Concerns

Remains of a collapsed temple are pictured at Bashantapur Durbar Square
Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters Remains of a collapsed temple at Bashantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, on May 7, 2015

Tourism chief insists they "should not remain closed forever"

Several Nepalese World Heritage sites previously closed due to earthquake damage were reopened on Monday, the result of nearly two months of work stabilizing structures and removing rubble.

But some United Nations officials expressed concerns that some buildings—damaged during the April earthquake that killed more than 8,700 people—were still too unsteady, the New York Times reports.

Nepal’s tourism secretary, Suresh Man Shrestha, nonethess told the Times “The treasures of the Nepalese economy should not remain closed forever.”

More than 700 monuments in Kathmandu and its environs were damaged in the quake, and the cost of rebuilding is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Some of the most notable reopened monuments include the plazas and courts of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, as well as the central squares of both the ancient city of Bhaktapur (the entirety of which is a UNESCO site) and Patan, a traditional center for handicrafts.

Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu told the Times that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

“At Kathmandu Durbar Square there is the huge palace museum—one very big building which is totally shaky,” he said. “The walls are disconnected from one another so this big wall can fall down at any moment.”

In response, Nepal’s Tourism Department said that museum would not reopen and that other safety measures, such as providing helmets to visitors, would mediate these concerns.

But Manhart said that even allowing tourists in proximity to unstable buildings could pose a risk. He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Dahal was not available for comment.

[NYT]

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in May, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Stephanie Sinclair’s compelling National Geographic photo essay on young Newari girls in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley who are worshipped as living goddesses.

Stephanie Sinclair: Living Goddesses of Nepal (National Geographic)

Daniel Berehulak: Caught in Nepal’s Earthquakes (The New York Times Lens blog) Powerful images by a photographer who just received a Pulitzer Prize for his Ebola coverage.

James Nachtwey: Nepal Pt1. | Pt. 2 (TIME LightBox) Two sets of pictures and text by the TIME contract photographer, who spent two weeks covering the quake’s aftermath.

Carolyn Drake: Sins of the Aral Sea (National Geographic) Photo essay highlights the current state of the vast inland sea that is now 90 percent gone.

Kirsten Luce: The Corridor of Death: Along America’s Second Border (TIME LightBox) Luce continues her strong documentation of the US-Mexico border.

Lynn Johnson: High Science (National Geographic) The magazine’s veteran documents the issues surrounding marijuana’s potential benefits and drawbacks.

Bryan Denton: Disabled and Facing More Challenges in Afghanistan (The New York Times) These pictures capture the struggles of injured Afghan soldiers and policemen.

Adam Ferguson: Cambodia’s Child Grooms (Al Jazeera America) Early marriage is on the increase in the country’s highlands.

Jerome Delay: Mob Attacks Suspected Militia Member in Burundi (NBC News) Dramatic sequence from Burundi’s capital by AP’s Africa chief photographer. Delay was also interviewed on TIME LightBox.

Alessio Romenzi: Gambling for a better life across the Mediterranean (Al Jazeera English) These pictures document the crowded conditions faced by migrants held in Libya’s detention centers.

TIME FIFA

Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

adidas Starts Production of Brazuca Match Balls
Lennart Preiss—Getty Images for adidas Brazuca match balls for the FIFA World Cup 2014 lie in a rack in front of the adidas logo on December 6, 2013 in Scheinfeld near Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Few want to discuss soccer's most important crisis

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

More than 20 hours after this story was published, Adidas sent another statement: “The adidas Group is committed to ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. These active efforts are guided by our core values as a company as well as by our Workplace Standards – contractual obligations under the manufacturing agreements the adidas Group signs with its main business partners. The Workplace Standards are based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) core labour rights conventions.

“We are in a constant dialogue with our partner FIFA and know that FIFA has repeatedly urged the Qatari authorities to ensure decent conditions for migrant workers in the country. There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing; but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved.”

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official said in a statement: “Kia Motors takes seriously any reports concerning the poor treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is our understanding that FIFA and related authorities are taking immediate steps to secure appropriate standards of welfare for all workers involved in these projects, and we will continue to monitor developments in Qatar very closely.” Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.

TIME Nepal

Rohingya Say Quake-Ravaged Nepal Is Better Than Life at Home or Death at Sea

Hassan Hassan, left, and other Rohingya refugees on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal
Sabrina Toppa for TIME Hassan Hassan, left, with fellow Rohingya refugees on the outskirts of Kathmandu in July 2014

“In Burma, just being Muslim is like a crime”

After last Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Nepal, the fear of aftershocks prompted Hassan Hassan to sleep on the street. The temblor sliced off his door, shattered his windows, and cracked the walls of the ramshackle dwelling he shared with almost 30 other refugees on Kathmandu’s outskirts.

Hassan is an ethnic Rohingya Muslim from western Burma, a country now officially known as Myanmar. Along with tens of thousands of Rohingyas, the 22-year-old fled recent pogroms initiated by his homeland’s Buddhist majority in search of a better life elsewhere.

But while most Rohingya escape on rickety boats, facing possible extortion or execution in Thai trafficking camps en route to safety, Hassan instead trundled overland more than 100 km into the snow-capped Himalayas.

And despite the wanton devastation, half-million homes flattened and at least 8,500 lives lost, the recent twin quakes and numerous aftershocks have not stopped Hassan from counting his blessings.

“I am lucky,” he tells TIME. “If I had gone to Thailand, maybe I also would’ve died.”

Out of Nepal’s total 37,000 refugees, some 120 are Burmese, of whom 70% are Rohingya, according to the local U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) office. While the 21,500 camp-based Bhutanese are recognized as legitimate refugees, “urban refugees” like the Rohingya are officially deemed illegal migrants.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim group of 1.3 million that mainly live in Burma’s westernmost Arakan state, and are dubbed “one of the world’s most persecuted peoples” by the U.N. The Burmese government refuses to grant them citizenship and claims they are in fact interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, even though many have lived in the country for generations. Bangladesh similarly shuns them as non-citizens.

Rohingya in Burma face restrictions on travel, education, marriage and land ownership. However, when politically expedient to the military-dominated government, Rohingyas have occasionally been allowed to vote.

“Many of them have been killed,” says Silvia di Gaetano, a Burma researcher at the Rights in Exile Programme. “Those who remain suffer malnutrition and starvation; severe physical and mental illness; and above all discrimination and persecution.”

Confined to squalid displacement camps, many Rohingya have fled east, potentially to die in the sea on the way to Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia. Now, however, these nations have started turning the boats away. And in recent weeks, mass graves have been uncovered in the thick jungle where Thailand tapers into Malaysia, belonging to Rohingya who fell prey to human traffickers that demand exorbitant ransoms to set them free. Those without wealthy connections are slain as a warning to others.

Activists have raised alarm that the Andaman Sea’s transformation into a “floating graveyard” is imminent, as the world witnesses a startling uptick in Rohingya’s perilous cross-border journeys. The U.N. reports that in this year alone, these voyages have nearly doubled, with almost 25,000 people estimated to attempt the journey, and 300 deaths already projected from unsuccessfully charting it.

As this humanitarian crisis deepens, most Rohingya in Nepal have expressed gratitude for the nation’s willingness to take them in and donate tents and critical relief supplies, despite recent quake-related hardships.

“For Rohingya, Nepal is still better than Burma,” says 30-year-old Zafir Miya, who also traversed South Asia — from Burma through Bangladesh and India to Nepal — in order to find a safe haven.

Hassan, who believes he is Nepal’s first Rohingya refugee, arrived in August 2012 — by mistake. “When I went from Bangladesh to India, the currency changed, so I knew I was in a different country,” he recalls. “But when I entered Nepal, they were still using Indian currency.”

Hassan did not realize Kathmandu was the capital of Nepal, a distinct country. Growing up in the Maungdaw district of Arakan state, Hassan says he lacked access to radio, television — Burma banned Rohingya-language broadcasts in 1965 — or even a SIM card, which before recent reforms would cost over $2,000.

When Hassan made his way to Kathmandu, he first scoured the city’s jails for the familiar faces of his missing kin, as many urban refugees are rounded up by police for illegal stays.

“Most [refugees] have been overstaying in Nepal for years,” says UNHCR Nepal spokesperson Deepesh Das Shrestha. The refugees are subject to a $5 per day overstay fine, possibly accumulating thousands of dollars in debt they cannot pay, because they are not allowed to work.

Without labor privileges in Nepal, most Rohingya are forced to stay idle, surviving on a UNHCR stipend of slightly more than $42 per month. For Hassan, this means his memory is awash with details of family he has not seen since before the 2012 Arakan state riots. He stays awake thinking of his mother Hafiza Begum, 43, whose towering stature distinguishes her from most Rohingya women. Hassan’s black-bearded father of 6 ft. 5 in., Mohammad Amin, 50, is marked by a 1.5-in. scar above his nose. All members of his family, except his 4-ft. 8-in. sister Rubina Aziz, are taller than the average Burmese citizens, including his four brothers: Emrun Faroque, Mojibur Rahman, Mahfujur Rahman and Tareq Aziz.

“If they are in Burma, they are dead,” says Hassan. “But if they escaped, there is a chance I can find them.”

According to UNHCR Nepal, nearly 60% of Nepal’s refugees from Burma are single men searching for family members. When communal riots first erupted in Arakan, Hassan was working in Bangladesh as a seasonal laborer, but planned to return home to observe the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But when he did, Hassan found an empty home amid a forsaken desert of torched houses. A neighbor said his relatives might have fled to Bangladesh during the violence, so Hassan left on a fisherman’s boat under the cover of night to examine Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazaar.

Finding no answers there, Hassan had few options but to follow rumors that his family might have pushed on into India. After searching fruitlessly in Darjeeling and West Bengal, Hassan went to Nepal.

For all its challenges, Nepal pales in comparison to stories Hassan says he hears from those trapped in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia. And Hassan, like the majority of Rohingya, has found a sense of community with Nepal’s minority Muslim community, which accounts for a mere 4% of the population of 30 million.

“In Nepal, they don’t look at the difference between a Hindu or Muslim,” Miya tells TIME.

“In Burma, just being Muslim is like a crime,” Hassan adds.

Yet the nagging question of missing relatives remains. Nepal is a transit point, a temporary shelter before the Rohingya weather the next storm. UNHCR has set up psychosocial counseling for refugees to alleviate earthquake-related anxiety, but the larger problem remains: How does a Rohingya refugee build a life between one location and the next? How does he track down loved ones without papers — lacking any state recognition — that remain in perennial flight, floating in seas, trundling across borders, always fleeing one threat only to face another?

In spite of its seismological perils, Nepal affords the Rohingya an opportunity to carve out a life freer than Southeast Asia, and many hope to bring kin — if they ever find them — to also settle in Kathmandu.

Though far from perfect, quake-ravaged Nepal may offer the best hope to a community whose statelessness remains a source of horrific vulnerability.

“This is the situation of the Rohingya,” says Hassan. “The person who is not a citizen anywhere has no limit to the punishment he can suffer.”

TIME Nepal

The Nepal Earthquakes Are Now the Nation’s Deadliest-Ever Disasters

Aftermath of Earthquake in Nepal
Anadolu Agency —Getty Images A Nepalese woman carrying her child walks past a destroyed building in Sankhu village in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 16, 2015.

More than 8,500 people have died as a result of the back-to-back earthquakes

On Sunday, Nepal’s Home Ministry confirmed at least 8,583 deaths from the past month’s two major earthquakes and subsequent tremors, making the combined disaster the deadliest in the country’s history, reports Reuters.

The last massive temblor to rock the landlocked Himalayan nation killed 8,519 people in 1934.

On April 25, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake erupted approximately 85 miles east of the capital, Kathmandu, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying a half-million homes nationwide. Three weeks later the country was struck again by a 7.3-magnitude tremor near Mount Everest that killed more than 100 people and triggered fresh landslides.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

U.N. officials report that millions of people remain in need of basic humanitarian assistance as the looming monsoon threatens to inundate the country’s fragile transportation network and hamper ongoing aid efforts.

[Reuters]

TIME Nepal

Six U.S. Marines Killed in Nepal Helicopter Crash Identified

Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, right, speaks during a press meet in Kathmandu
Niranjan Shrestha—AP Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, right, speaks during a press meet in Kathmandu, on May 15, 2015.

They were supporting post-earthquake relief efforts

The six U.S. Marines who died in a helicopter crash while supporting earthquake relief efforts in Nepal were identified Sunday morning.

Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz of Nebraska; Capt. Christopher L. Norgren of Kansas; Sgt. Ward M. Johnson IV of Florida; Sgt. Eric M. Seaman of California; Cpl. Sara A. Medina of Illinois and Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug of Arizona were all killed when their UH-1Y Huey helicopter went down near Charikot, Nepal, Tuesday, according to the U.S. military.

Two Nepalese service members — identified by the Nepalese Army as Tapendra Rawal and Basanta Titara, according to The Associated Press — also died in the crash…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Nepal

Missing U.S. Marine Helicopter Found Crashed Near Nepal’s Border With China

Nepalese army men search for the missing U.S. Marine helicopter in the earthquake affected Dolakha District of Nepal on May 14, 2015.
Niranjan Shrestha—AP Nepalese army men search for the missing U.S. Marine helicopter in the earthquake affected Dolakha District of Nepal on May 14, 2015.

Nepal’s Defense Secretary said three bodies had been spotted by the wreckage

The wreckage of a U.S. marine chopper on an aid mission in Nepal that was reported missing hours after the Himalayan nation was hit by a 7.3 magnitude temblor on Tuesday has been found near the country’s border with China, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said on Friday.

The wreckage of the UH-1Y Huey helicopter, which was carrying six U.S. marines and two Nepalese soldiers when it was declared missing, was found just before 2 P.M. local time in an area approximately 8 miles north of Charikot, in Nepal’s northeastern Dolakha district. “An assessment of the site is ongoing and a thorough investigation will be conducted,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Major David Eastburn said in an emailed statement.

Earlier, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, a spokesman for Nepal’s home ministry told TIME that the chopper had been found in Dolakha’s Kalinchok village. “It crashed in a slope near Kalinchok [Hindu] temple,” Dhakal said.

Reuters, meanwhile, quoted Iswori Prasad Paudyal, the top civil servant in Nepal’s defense ministry, as saying that three bodies had been found in the wreckage of the chopper. “The search for others is continuing. As the helicopter has broken into pieces and totally crashed there is no chance of any survivors,” he told the news agency.

The helicopter was on a mission to deliver aid to earthquake victims around 85 miles east of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu when it was declared missing. The U.S. marines were part of a joint task force set up in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25 that killed over 8,000 people.

The quake, which was centered in a mountainous region to the northwest of Kathmandu, was followed by a series of smaller aftershocks — and then on May 12, by violent tremors triggered by a large 7.3 magnitude rupture with an epicenter to the capital’s northeast, between Kathmandu and Mount Everest.

Dolakaha was among the districts hardest hit by the second quake on Tuesday, with the tremors knocking down buildings and killing more than 100 people in the already devastated South Asian nation.

As news of the missing U.S. chopper emerged shortly after Tuesday’s quake, American and Nepalese air and ground forces fanned out across the region in a massive search effort. Indian forces also assisted in the search, according U.S. Pacific Command.

 

TIME portfolio

James Nachtwey’s Latest Dispatches From Nepal

TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey reports from the quake-devastated country

This is second part in a two-part series of dispatches filed by TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey from Nepal, days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated parts of the central Asian country. Read part one.

The mountains of Nepal are weeping. The restless earth shifted, and thousands of people perished. Many more thousands have been injured. Hundreds of villages have been flattened. Stone houses made by hand were literally shaken apart. But what was created by hand can be rebuilt the same way, and that is exactly what the Nepalese villagers are doing. What can never be replaced are the loved ones, many of whom are still being discovered buried beneath the rubble.

Having witnessed the destruction in Kathmandu and surrounding towns, I attempted to see what had happened in the remote mountain villages. The epicenter of the quake was located in Gorkha District, most of which was inaccessible, except by helicopter. The 301 and 206 Aviation Squadrons of the Indian Army were flying out of Pokhara, airlifting food and supplies and evacuating the injured. It was a fast paced, non-stop operation that required highly skilled pilots to land with very little clearance on small terraced fields carved into the steep mountainsides. Some flights could find no place to land. Others hovered and shoved food, blankets and tarps out of the open helicopter doors.

Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

One mission took us to an extremely remote Buddhist monastery deep in the snow-covered, high Himalayas to evacuate a group of young monks from their damaged dwellings.

Barpak is one of the larger villages in the district. 1,200 out of 1,475 houses were destroyed. 69 people were killed. Some are still missing. 150 were seriously injured. The inhabitants quickly began the rebuilding process. Furniture, utensils and personal possessions were slowly salvaged from the ruins, and piece-by-piece, individual stones, wooden planks and corrugated metal, were retrieved and sorted, to be used again. The people were on their own, fending for themselves, as they always had.

A rescue team discovered Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, buried in the wreckage of a house. Only then did the natural stoicism of the people break down.

International Medical Corps flew into the village of Gumda and set up a two-day, mobile health clinic. As in Barpak, the people busied themselves with dismantling the ruins in order to rebuild. Rejina Gurung, aged 3, was found beneath a fallen roof, and alongside four others from the village who had died, was buried in a field overlooking a broad valley, far below.

The Nepalese are known for their strength and self-reliance, their equanimity, friendliness and spirituality. As their character was being tested by a natural disaster, they revealed an unshakeable resilience. It became clear that who they are has been forged in hardship and closeness to nature.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

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