April 14, 2010

The Tibetan Earthquake ~ How to Help


Video from AlJazeera YouTube Channel:

Update 4/16/10: From first-hand report of Khenpo Tsering (via Lyndon Comstock)

Khenpo said that Lady Konchok got through to him earlier today and asked him to find out what has happened to the Vidyadhara’s relatives who live in Jyekundo.  He went over to their house to find out.  Their house is heavily damaged and will have to be rebuilt but it did not collapse.  None of them were killed, he’s not sure yet if any were injured.

He confirmed that Karma Senge Rinpoche was at Kyere and not at Jyekundo when the earthquake took place.

He said that many monks are arriving in Jyekundo from monasteries that were not damaged in the earthquake and are helping with relief and rescue work.  He said that there are now monks everywhere that one looks, as many as there are Chinese soldiers.  A number of monks came up from Surmang Dutsi Til yesterday to help and more are coming today.  He said that at least forty carloads of monks will be arriving today from Serta monastery, the largest monastery in Tibet, to help.  He knows the monks from Serta and they will work with him in any way that he wants.  Trungpa Rinpoche is coming from Derge to Jyekundo today to help also, and Aten Rinpoche is already assisting Khenpo in Jyekundo.  There are also monks arriving from Acho (sp?) monastery, which Khenpo described as the second largest monastery in Tibet after Serta, to help.

The two main things that the monks are doing so far is helping to dig in the wrecked buildings to look for people and distributing food….

…The Chinese government and a number of NGOs are starting to pass out tents and food today…he said that today is the first day that any substantial number of tents are being passed out.  He said that some families have been able to get food out of their houses if their house didn’t collapse and that monks are already distributing food to a lot of people.

Khenpo drove to Thrangu monastery yesterday, after I spoke to him on the phone, because he heard that the damage was so severe there. He said that there were a lot of people digging in the ruins there but the monastery is in very bad shape.  None of the monks’ housing there is still standing.  The Mahakala shrine building collapsed.  The main lhakang is still standing but is heavily damaged and will have to be rebuilt.  He asked people there how many monks had died and was told that no one knows yet.  One monk told him sixty to seventy monks had died and another told him at least thirty.  There are also two villages very close to Thrangu monastery and he said that they are completely destroyed without a single house still standing so a lot of people must have died there as well.  He said that Aten Rinpoche has two cousins who were killed at Thrangu monastery.

I asked him if he knew anything more about the total casualties from the earthquake.  He said that people think that there were about two to three thousand people killed in Jyekundo and fifteen to twenty thousand injured, but no one knows and that is just a guess.  I asked if that is casualties from the entire area of the earthquake and he said, no, that’s just in Jyekundo.  I asked what the population of Jyekundo is and he said eighty or ninety thousand people.  I was surprised since that is much more than what I thought, based on Chinese census reports.  He said that the Chinese census figures only include people who are registered with the Chinese government and half the population of Jyekundo is not registered.  The Chinese government states that Yushu County, which includes Jyekundo, has a population of about eighty thousand (2005).  Khenpo said that he thinks there are more than one hundred fifty thousand people in the county.

I told Khenpo that I have seen a newspaper report that the Karmapa has asked the monks in India to do prayers for the people who died in the earthquake.  He had not heard that and he said people in Jyekundo would want to know that.

He asks that everyone in the Shambhala sangha do prayers for the people who died in the earthquake.  He also asked me to pass along his thanks for all those who have donated money to help those who have suffered from the earthquake.

A first-hand report of the quake from the Konchok Foundation:

Khenpo Tsering of the Surmang Monastery was able to call Lyndon Comstock of the Konchok Foundation to report on the devastation in the Surmang area.  Khenpo said that Jyekundo (the closest city to Surmang) is “completely destroyed.” He said that probably 95% of the buildings in the city have been destroyed. He said that, if anyone has seen the movie “2012,” it looks like that. Even some of the more recent larger buildings collapsed. He said that a six or seven story building collapsed “like the World Trade Center.”

Khenpo said that about eight hundred bodies that have been pulled out of the rubble so far but “there are thousands more bodies still buried in the collapsed buildings.”

Surmang Dutsi Til was not seriously affected by the earthquake. He has not been there in this first day since the earthquake but he was told that the earthquake was not so large there (Surmang is much further from the epicenter than Jyekundo is). He was told that no one was injured at Surmang Dutsi Til, and that several buildings have cracks in them from the earthquake, but none collapsed. He was told that there was no damage at all to the new shedra building complex at Surmang, which he described as very strongly built compared to how other buildings are constructed in the region.

Trungpa XII Rinpoche is at Derge right now, which was not affected by the earthquake. Damcho Tenphel Rinpoche was at Kyere and most of the family members of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche are in that area, which was not affected by the earthquake. However, several of the Vidyadhara’s nieces or nephews have been living in Jyekundo and Khenpo has no news yet of what has happened to them.

Thrangu monastery was the monastery most severely damaged by the earthquake from the reports that Khenpo has received. He was told that it is “95% destroyed” and that many monks there are dead, but no one yet knows how many.

Khenpo asked Lyndon to tell the Shambhala sangha that, if we are able to send money, that would be very helpful, because everyone who was involved in this earthquake needs help. He is going to find the Surmang families first to see how he can help them but there are many people who need help. Everyone who was living in Jyekundo has lost their house and has had people close to them who was killed or injured.

The Konchok Foundation has set up a disaster relief fund so that sangha members or others who wish to offer support can do so.

By Kalsang Rinchen from Phayul.com

Dharamsala, April 14 – Latest reports indicate that the death toll in the massive earthquake that hit Qinghai province earlier today has risen to 400 and around 10000 people have been injured.

However, unconfirmed sources including Tibetan exiles belonging to the quake hit area who claimed to have spoken to people there say the death toll is much higher. One Tibetan who said he spoke to someone in his village puts the death toll around 3000.

The quake measured 7.1 on Richter scale, according to China Earthquake Networks Center but the United States Geological Survey puts the magnitude at 6.9.

The epicenter of the quake lies in Yushu County (Kyegudo in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham) in the Yushu prefecture. The quake struck at 7:49 a.m. with a depth of about 33 km and is calculated to be 33.1 north and 96.7 east, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.

“The strong quake and a string of aftershocks, with the biggest one being 6.3 magnitude, have toppled houses, temples, gas stations and electric poles, triggered landslides, damaged roads, cut power supplies and disrupted telecommunications. A reservoir was also cracked, where workers are trying to prevent the outflow of water,” reported Xinhua.

The death toll “may rise further as lots of houses collapsed,” according to Wu Yong, commander of the Yushu Military Area Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. “We are now putting up tents and transporting oxygen to prepare for treating the injured,” he said. “But roads leading to the airport have been damaged, hampering the rescue efforts,” he said. “In addition, frequent aftershocks and strong winds make the rescue operation more difficult,” he added.

At least 18 aftershocks have been reported so far, with the biggest being 6.3 magnitude about an hour and 36 minutes later.

“Aftershocks above 6 magnitude are still likely to happen in the coming several days,” warned Liu Jie, of the China Earthquake Networks Center.

In Dharamsala, five NGOs will hold a prayer vigil later today for the victims of the catastrophe and their families. The Tibetan Youth Congress, Gu Chu Sum movement of Tibet, Tibetan Women’s Association, National Democratic Party of Tibet and the Students for a Free Tibet will light a butter lamps (Gyamchoe)at the Tsuglakhang courtyard and offer prayers on the Tibetan exiles’ behalf for those killed in the quake, and for those who have been injured.

The exile Tibetan government here also closed offices under its administration to hold prayer session for the victims and their families.

From Free Tibet

The epicentre of the quake is about 50km west of Jiegu Township, according to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua. Jiegu is the main town in Yushu, a Tibetan-populated area in the eastern Tibetan area of Kham (Chinese province: Qinghai). The Chinese government considers Yushu as a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The US Geological Survey, reported that the initial quake was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks: ten minutes after the first quake a second quake of 5.3 magnitude struck. That quake was followed two minutes later by a quake of 5.2 magnitude. Another quake measuring 5.8 was recorded at 9.25am local time. Sky news has reported that 18 aftershocks in total followed the initial quake.

Free Tibet’s Director Stephanie Brigden who worked in Yushu and knows the area well said:

“ The buildings along the main road are concrete blocks which have probably toppled like dominos, in the surrounding back streets there are more traditional wooden Tibetan homes which we hope have been able to withstand the earthquake. We already know hundreds are dead, many more injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people affected by this earthquake and their families and friends living in exile who will be frantically waiting for news. Military presence in Tibetan towns, even in remote areas like Yushu has been increasing since the Spring protests in 2008. Their presence has been intimidating and has allowed the state to respond quickly to quash protests. We are encouraged that in response to the tragedy the military have been mobilised to assist in search and rescue.”

Xinhua has reported one local official in Jiegu as saying that more than 85% of the houses had collapsed following the series of quakes and that large cracks had appeared on the buildings that remained standing. A local government website reports that the county’s population was measured at 89,300 in 2005, mostly Tibetan herders and farmers. Yushu is close to the source of three rivers on the Tibetan Plateau. The BBC has reported that many local people have fled in to the mountains amid concerns that a nearby dam at the headwaters of the three rivers could burst. The BBC cited official state media as reporting that local officials were attempting to drain a reservoir after a crack appeared in the dam wall. China is building a string of dams across the headwaters of major Asian rivers which have their sources on the Tibetan Plateau to address future water shortages. The presence of a growing number of dams in an area prone to earthquakes received significant media attention following a huge earthquake that struck Sichuan province in 2008. The BBC reported that soldiers had been sent to the area to help with the rescue effort in the first instance and that 5,000 specialist quake rescuers have been despatched to Yushu. There is a significant military presence in the area as China has sent thousands of additional troops into the area following Tibetan protests against Chinese rule in 2008 that have continued sporadically since.

Reports from Reuters CNN and the NYTimes

From People’s Daily (China)

From Tibet Truth

How to Help via Shambhala Sunspace

Additional Ways to Help:

  1. The Surmang Foundation will accept donations for earthquake relief. Click the link at the bottom of the page.  All donations  will be given to a special Earthquake Relief Fund to provide medical care for victims and to aid in the rebuilding. Donate here

  3. The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet.  The ICT monitors and reports on human rights, environmental and socio economic conditions in Tibet. Donate here.

  5. Tibetan Village Project (TVP) is a non-profit, non-political organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development while preserving the rich cultural heritage of Tibet. The organization was founded in 2001 by Tamdin and Tseyang with support from friends and family.  Donate here.

  7. As the world’s first ever Tibet charity, Tibet Relief Fund was founded in 1960 following the Dalai Lama’s flight from his country. There are now over 130,000 Tibetans living in India and Nepal. We help to give these people a better future, through projects focusing on healthcare, education, income generation and youth employment programmes. We also support projects within Tibet and have helped build over nine primary schools and continue to work within this field as well as community health programmes. Donate here.

  9. Machik seeks to help chart new pathways forward as communities on the Tibetan plateau approach uncertain times. By respecting the standpoint of others and appreciating our responsibility toward one another and to our collective human future, we have learned that meaningful change is possible, even under challenging circumstances. In our years of working directly with local Tibetan communities, these principles have enabled us to find our way across many uncertainties.  Donate here.

  11. The Seva Foundation has created a Tibetan Erthquake Relief Fund: Seva (say-va) is a Sanskrit word for service.  Seva Foundation was formed in 1978 with a mission to alleviate suffering caused by disease and poverty.  Our approach is to build partnerships that respond to locally defined problems with culturally sustainable solutions. Working in nine countries in addition to the United States, Seva Foundation supports projects in the area of health and wellness, community development, environmental protection and cultural preservation.  Donate here.

  13. The Tibet Foundation:  The Tibet Foundation was established in 1985 with the aims of providing healthcare, education and social economic support for people of Tibetan origin, both those living in exile, and those living in Tibet itself. It provides facilities to create a greater awareness of Tibetan culture and works to ensure its preservation, also to make available the thoughts and ideas of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spreading his message of peace and harmony.  Donate here.

  15. The Tibet Fund: The Tibet Fund’s mission is to preserve the distinct cultural and national identity of the Tibetan people. For 27 years, under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Tibet Fund has been the primary funding organization for programs serving more than 140,000 Tibetan refugees living in India, Nepal and Bhutan.  Our aim is to promote self-reliance and help sustain the cohesiveness of the exile community. In Tibet, our support is directed to orphanages, eye care and other health programs and educational projects that aid impoverished and marginalized Tibetans.  Donate here.

  17. The Thrangue Emergency Fund:  Rinpoche’s representative in the UK, Lama Wangyal, has set up an emergency fund to assist in the relief effort. The fundraising effort has been going for 48 hours and we would like to extend our profound gratitude to all those who have telephoned, e-mailed, and dropped in to the centre to offer support. We have received kind messages of support and donations from the UK, Germany, Poland, Austria, France, Belgium, Finland, Slovenia, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, India, Nepal, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, and other countries all around the World. Many thanks to everyone. Donate here.





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