21 September 2019
The earthquake has destroyed centuries-old temples and palaces. Photo: ABC News
The earthquake has destroyed centuries-old temples and palaces. Photo: ABC News

Nepal quake attracts monsters who seem to have hearts of gold

Almost two weeks after a deadly earthquake struck this Himalayan nation, the Nepalese people are still reeling from the devastation and trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Due to lack of easy access, proper coordination and expertise, rescue efforts in remote areas have been painfully slow, sometimes non-existent, and many lives that could have been saved were lost.

The quake’s epicenter was in a remote hillside area where transportation was already very poor even before the disaster, and most of the villages were cut off when all of the access roads were destroyed.

Lack of helicopters and other airborne services made the rescue efforts even harder and hard-hit areas where help was urgently needed were virtually out of reach. The unusually heavy and persistent rain in the dry season only heightened the misery of survivors.

The earthquake destroyed many houses, roads, historical monuments and public structures. It was so devastating that villages near the epicenter of the quake were completely wiped out without a single house spared.

Many victims were buried alive in the ruins; they didn’t even have a chance to call for help. Others cried, but nobody heard them.

The panorama of destruction caused by the earthquake gradually came to light as the days passed. It stunned the whole world and sank the nation in utter grief. Pristine villages turned into cemeteries; no one could remember having seen such devastation before.

Yet what disturbed us no end were those unwatchable footages repeatedly played out on television — images of unattended bodies of dead people scattered among the debris — as if they were insignificant objects that deserved no attention, let alone respect.

If you cannot give respect to the living, it probably doesn’t matter, but in death, they at least deserve some dignity, and when we fail to give them that, it shows how low we have come down.

Especially in the Asian society, we should all be troubled by this fact alone. I was genuinely perturbed whenever I saw such scenes either on TV or in the papers; my heart ached and I had to look away. No one deserves such an undignified death in this world and it should never happen to anyone.

Whenever such scale of disaster strikes anywhere in this world, the international community has always responded very well and people from around the globe have always shown more empathy, heart and kindness than during normal times.

Relief and rescue efforts by the international community have always been swift, immense and poignant.

Unfortunately, some of those acts of generosity and benevolence tend to have some hidden motives; some simply want to be seen in front of the frantic cameras, while others are motivated by personal or national interests.

Rich and powerful nations come for more leverage of influence and domination. The United Nations is here because that is its main job. Small nations come in sympathy. International NGOs come because their main job is to help others in emergency situations and it also enhances their reputation, while other people and institutions come because they are connected to the victims in some special ways.

In brief, most are here out of a sense of obligation and for humanity. I believe only a few individuals and a small group of people are here for genuine help.

More disdainfully, some people have the tendency of seeking opportunity in others’ misery. They are evil in the name of good and people must remain alert.

Nepal is well known for its ancient history, culture and heritage. It has centuries-old temples, palaces and heritage buildings, and it is not surprising at all that nefarious groups working on illegal artifacts have been attracted to the fallen buildings as flies to dirt.

There are also human traffickers, sex traders and other opportunists who are all driven to our ruined villages to prey on victims of the disaster at their frailest moment.

It is the responsibility of the relevant authority as well as ordinary citizens to stop them and all must remain very alert.

As the old saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. We must always be aware of our surroundings and watch out for monsters who seem to have hearts of gold.

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EJ Insight contributor