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News from Surmang regarding the earthquake

 

We will try to keep ongoing updates posted here, as they come in.  Most of these reports are written by Lyndon Comstock, who talks with the Surmang Khenpo every night by cell phone..

Amongst these updates are also some reports from the Gesar Fund, a Shambhalian charity in Europe which supports medical and educational projects in Kham and Golok, and is also valiantly helping earthquake relief efforts "on the ground."  

Jyekundo Earthquake Photo Essay by The Surmang Khenpo  click here!

 

DEMOLITION AND RUBBLE CLEARING UNDERWAY IN JYEKUNDO

Shedra Construction Resumes at Surmang

Konchok Foundation

Update Report

From Lyndon Comstock

10 June 2010

Jyekundo, post-earthquake, is now the blue city, as Khenpo calls it, due to the thousands of government issued tents.  All of the population still living in the city are residing in tents.  June 2010.

 In the foreground of this picture, one can see that razing of this residential neighborhood in Jyekundo is underway, with many buildings already completely cleared away.  The small cloud of dust in the center of the photo is from another building coming down.  June 2010.

 

Ongoing relief efforts.  The Surmang team is now back at Dutsi Til most of the time.  However, they are bringing another 15,000 pounds of barley flour from Xining into Jyekundo this week for distribution.  Additionally, some families that did not previously receive financial aid, including one extended family that lost 13 people in the earthquake, have recently been given financial support. 

 

Reports about the rebuilding plans for Jyekundo continue to shift week by week.  Some residents will have to give up their present home sites and relocate to a different part of Jyekundo because of plans for road widening, and for a new park and market.  News reports indicate that many residents were upset due to fear that their home sites would be taken for government buildings; it is unclear so far as to whether or not that will actually happen.   The manner in which residential homes will be rebuilt is not yet clear either, with concern expressed about reported plans to build very small (800 square foot) houses for large Tibetan families.  Even those families who have somewhere else to go are trying to keep some family members in the city to keep track of the rebuilding situation.

 

Surmang shedra.  Construction resumed on the Surmang shedra in the past two weeks.    Approximately 16 Chinese construction workers and 25 Tibetans have been at work on the flooring in the lhakang (shrine hall and classroom building) and on various masonry details.   The solar heating piping has now been laid on both the first and second floors of the lhakang and the concrete subflooring poured.

 

 

Concrete mixing in front of the lhakang.  June 2010.

 

 

Hauling freshly mixed concrete into the lhakang for the subflooring.  In the background, masonry work taking place on the roof of the shedra front gate.  June 2010.

 

It has not been a problem so far to purchase building materials in Xining, however the cost of both building materials and labor has been increasing rapidly.  It’s expected to go up again once rebuilding starts in Jyekundo.  Khenpo reports that it is already nearly impossible to find electricians.

 

The Surmang team is trying to complete as much as possible of the remaining shedra construction, other than painting and furnishings, this summer.  More funds will be needed soon to keep the construction going.

 

49th Day Practices for Earthquake Victims
Wednesday, June 2, will be the culmination of the 49 day period of compassionate meditations for those who died in the April 14 Tibetan earthquake.  Please recall with kindness the children, women, and men who were killed.


For an overview of the earthquake's impact, update on relief efforts, and photos on the Shambhala Times, please click here.

 

GESAR FUND UPDATE ON EARTHQUAKE RELIEF JUNE 1, 2010

 

For people having to leave the devastated city of Yushu,  the sadness of departing and of being left behind has set in. Those who have family somewhere else or have a place they can go to have been moving out over the last two weeks. Those who have no other place to go have been told by the authorities that they can stay. Most of these people – now living in tents in the middle of the rubble of the ruined city – are the poorest and the most desperate. The people that are left behind are the ones the Gesar Fund will be focusing on, even though we do not have the means to help all of them. Our volunteers have been asked to wait till everybody who can move out have moved out. We have set up a network of contacts in several part of Jyekundo that informs us about what help the local government is offering in terms of repairing houses and what additional relief we can offer if needed. In the mean time Sojong, one of our volunteers, is travelling around in order to check out the needs of people in smaller townships like Dönda, Xiwu and Khandha and elsewhere.

 

The Gesar Fund received a thank you letter from the local government of Chenduo County for the relief work we did so far, and for the first aid our medical car offered to the earthquake victims.

 

So far about 24,000 Euro has been spent. Fortunately many people are aware that help needs to continue and we are pleased to report that donations are still coming in, among them a most appreciated donation from our sister organization the Könchok Foundation. With around 6000 Euro still on our Chinese account, we are preparing for another trip to Xining. There we will again buy bulk food and other items that our volunteers will indicate.    As long as donations are coming in we will continue this work.

 

THE EARTHQUAKE AND OUR TB PROJECT

 

As we already discussed with the hospital with which we work together on fighting TB in Chenduo County, the testing of people on TB in remote places will have to be postponed for the near future. The testing takes four doctors to go with our medical car and be away for many weeks. Since they are needed for earthquake relief these doctors are not available now. Fortunately we have already tested a few thousand people over the last year. So we will now switch from testing more people to treating those we already found to be infected. We will also use our donations to transport poor and seriously ill people who need to be hospitalized to the hospital itself and pay for their treatment there. Moreover, it is known what areas are badly smitten by TB and we will include those areas in our TB program.

 

Gesar Fund, account number 4391534 Haarlem, The Netherlands, IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534, BIC: INGBNL2A

 

Earthquake Relief Update Report

May 22, 2010

by Lyndon Comstock

 

Two residents of Jyekundo who have received blankets

Earthquake recovery.   Large scale clearing of rubble, and razing of those structures still standing, is underway in all parts of Jyekundo.   The majority of the population of the city continues to live in tents in the streets, even while this work takes place around them.

 

Ongoing distribution of food relief has been a priority for those who are assisting the residents, including monks from Surmang.  The Konchok Foundation has also made a grant to support the earthquake relief work of the Gesar Fund, which is focusing on rural areas in the earthquake zone.

 

As previously noted, it appears that the government has dropped its earlier plan to erect large numbers of temporary structures in refugee camps.  The government has meanwhile been urging everyone to leave the city during the rebuilding process; it is unclear where people will go, especially those residents who don’t have a home elsewhere.

 

The Surmang leadership expects that a number of displaced people from Jyekundo will end up in the Surmang region, especially those who already had summer residences in Surmang. However, they don’t have any estimate yet of how many people this will entail. 

 

No announcements have been made yet as to detailed plans for the rebuilding of Jyekundo.  It’s expected the construction of new infrastructure for the city will start this summer.

 

Surmang shedra.   The Surmang leadership will soon turn a substantial part of their attention back to the completion of the Surmang shedra.  The key goal for the shedra this year—to have the classrooms become usable by the fall—is now more important than ever due to the influx of children from Jyekundo.  Also, the season in which exterior finish work or painting can take place is short and is already starting to slip by.

 

Work will resume on the shedra in the coming week; the first task is flooring in the lhakang (shrine hall and classrooms building).  The Surmang Khenpo has now assembled a team of workers and will keep them fully occupied for as long as we can provide the money to pay them.

 

Children from Jyekundo

Surmang educational program.  Starting in fall 2008, dozens of children began receiving schooling from the Surmang educational program, thanks to support from the Gesar Fund.  This program will move into the shedra classrooms as soon as they are ready for use.  It will also expand in enrollment, partially due to the earthquake refugee children, if sufficient funds are available.

 

Earthquake Relief Update Report

10 May 2010

Surmang monks distribute tsampa flour in Jyekundo on May 9

This update report covers the period May 4 to May 10.

Earthquake relief efforts in Jyekundo by The Surmang Khenpo and the team from Surmang, as well as by other monasteries and also NGOs, are mostly focused on food distribution at this time. Khenpo, with the help of three monks from Surmang, personally distributed ten thousand pounds of roasted barley flour for tsampa on the streets of Jyekundo a couple of days ago.  He had purchased this barley flour in Xining and had arranged for it to be repackaged into ten pound bags before bringing it down to Jyekundo. 

Khenpo ordered another 15,000 pounds of barley flour in Xining.  The barley milling operations in Xining are working flat out and it will take a week for this order to be filled.

monk giving flour

The importance of Jyekundo to the region is illustrated by the barley milling situation.  There was far more capacity for roasting and milling of barley for tsampa in Jyekundo than in Xining, although Xining is a much, much larger city.  No barley flour is now available for purchase at any of the shops that have opened up in tents in Jyekundo.  The regional shortage of barley flour, caused by the destruction of the Jyekundo barley millers, extends as far as Xining, where there is now no inventory left of barley flour.  One monastery brought in some barley flour all the way from Lhasa, which is a very long and difficult journey.

Relocation plans for the population of Jyekundo have changed.  The government previously announced three principal refugee locations for those who could not move elsewhere.   More recently, they have said that no government support will be provided at the areas to the south and east of Jyekundo, although people can camp there if they want.  Meanwhile, the area to the west of Jyekundo, near the horse festival grounds, has thousands of people living in it and is completely filled up.

The government is asking all residents of Jyekundo who are able to temporarily relocate to some other region to leave as soon as possible.  Khenpo reports that a small but steady stream of people have been leaving the city but the great majority of the population appears to still be there, living in the streets.

The previous announcement that temporary housing will be provided for those who can’t move elsewhere has been rescinded.  Reports now state that families will be provided with a heavy tent plus a coal burning stove if they have nowhere else to move.  The temporary structures that have been put up will be used for offices and schools.

For now, it is unclear where most of the population of Jyekundo will go during the rebuilding period although it still appears to be the case that they will have to leave the city.  Meanwhile, the government announced that thousands of Chinese construction workers will be arriving in the next few weeks to start on the rebuilding work.  Because of the climate, it’s difficult to do construction work except in the May – September time period.

From Lyndon Comstock

Earthquake relief Update from Gesar Fund

May 12

Thanks to the generous donations that we received over the last 10 days we have been able to wire another 10,000 Euro to our bank account in Xining. That enabled our Gesar Volunteer Team to buy flour for the amount of 2000 Euro, rice for the amount of 5000 Euro and tsampa for the amount of 2000 Euro as well as renting space in a big truck for transport. All this food has been distributed in Yushu, in the surrounding villages and beyond.

We also bought lots of baby clothes in Xining. They have been distributed in Jyekundo itself. So far 20 mothers who just had given birth received them. That was a very moving event.

Initially the government declared only Yushu County to be disaster area, but recently it has included the other counties within the prefecture. For it turns out that many villages that lie further away from the destroyed city Jyekundo - all the way up north to Zadoi and Dönda - have also been hit. That means that the people in Chenduo County will also get some help in the future from the government in terms of rebuilding their houses. Food is different matter. Our volunteer team had already been at some of these places and provided some relief in terms of food. 

Because our Volunteer Team is also looking for volunteers at other places it also went back to Khandha to make further connections with the schoolmaster of the destroyed school there. He offered to be available and help both with providing earthquake relief and with developing ideas about education. Our key volunteers, Sojong, Samba Tachi and Shauchwa will continue to work for the Gesar Fund, also after Nyima Kunga leaves for Holland in a few days. Shauchwa resumed her work as a school teacher; now in a big tent as the school building is unsafe.

The earthquake and our health care projects

Since the doctors at the Chenduo hospital that the Gesar Fund works with are all required to work in Jyekundo our Tuberculosis project has come to a halt, at least for the time being. The TB project required 4 doctors to travel in our medical car to remote places and monasteries for long periods of time. Right now this is impossible. They cannot be missed. The hospital, however, also asked our help in fighting hepatitis which is wide spread and gets even more wide spread now. Families need to be tested but the government policy is that people have to pay for the tests themselves. Those who have no income do not show up for the testing. The tests cost about 2 Euro per person. We decided that for this year the money that was meant for fighting TB will be used to offer free testing to people that have no job and no money to pay for the testing themselves. The vaccination will be carried out by the government.  

So, please remember  Gesar Fund, account number 4391534 Haarlem, The Netherlands, IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534, BIC: INGBNL2A


  3 May 2010

Konchok Foundation Earthquake Relief Update Report
From Lyndon Comstock

 This update covers the period April 28-May 3.

The situation in Jyekundo has now moved beyond the emergency rescue and relief efforts of the first two weeks after the April 14 earthquake.   The evacuation of Jyekundo is now getting underway.  Reports indicate that the entire population of the city will be evacuated before the end of May.  At that time, large scale clearing of the rubble of the city, and razing of unstable structures still standing, is expected to begin.
 
Families have the choice so far of moving to refugee camps to the south, west, or east of Jyekundo, or else to move elsewhere such as their original home region.  It’s possible that some of these refugee camps will fill up, reducing the choices then available.  The government has been erecting numbers of temporary structures in the three refugee locations, however, indications are that there are not enough of these yet to use as housing and most families will be in tents for the time being.
 
Because all of the barley milling operations in Jyekundo were knocked out by the earthquake, there has been an ongoing severe shortage of tsampa.  Tsampa, made from roasted barley flour and yak butter, is the staple of the Tibetan diet and is much heartier than the Chinese noodles on which people are primarily subsisting at present.  Because the city is being evacuated, the restart of local barley milling in the Jyekundo area at scale will be quite slow.
 
The most significant relief effort of the past several days by the Surmang team has been an effort to bring more barley flour and butter from Xining to Jyekundo.  However, the barley flour shortage has rippled up to Xining and has slowed down the purchase of the desired quantities.
 
The Surmang Khenpo has been in Xining for the past several days.  He ordered 10,000 pounds of barley flour, and so far received 5,000 pounds.  This is being packaged in ten pound bags for distribution to families.  While there, Khenpo has also been replenishing funds and purchasing some other supplies.  Aten Rinpoche is still in Jyekundo.
 

Goods bought by the Gesar Fund to be distributed in the destroyed towns of Yushu County

 

Gesar Fund Update May 4

Yesterday our Gesar Fund Board member Nyima Kunga met with Sönam Peyo, the comptroller of our Tibetan Gesar Fund branch. As she is also a nurse she is now working in an emergency field hospital in the city of Yushu. Our Tibetan Gesar Fund manager Tete Kunga is still in Xining after helping out as translator in the hospital and falling sick himself from fatigue.

Our Gesar volunteers, however, are actively exploring the area hit by the earthquake, visiting the smaller villages and hamlets around Yushu. The village near Thrangu Rinpoche’s monastery has 100% destroyed houses. The original population there of 700 people lost 200 lives! At least they have tents to shelter from the cold but hardly any food. We will provide some relief either in the form of food or in the form of some money. The nunnery of Gyare, about 20 miles from Yushu has all its houses collapsed. There is a real shortage of food and no tents. The tsampa project remains high on our agenda. We will buy more tsampa and explore further whether we can buy machines in Yushu to produce tsampa.

The amount of trucks with goods coming to Yushu seems to go down since the last two days.

One of Nyima’s nephews and a former monk was featured in the local newspaper as he saved 11 people from under the rubble with his bare hands.

We also made contact with a Chinese relief organization who needs translators and we might provide some to them when they go to small villages.

In general it looks like we will begin to focus our relief efforts on villages and hamlets around Yushu with the idea to provide them with the most needed materials and provisions (see picture) for a longer period of time up to several months. Depending on the donations coming in we might take on two or three of these places. So, please remember  Gesar Fund, account number 4391534 Haarlem, The Netherlands, IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534, BIC: INGBNL2A

 

GESAR FUND UPDATE EARTHQUAKE YUSHU

Sunday, 02 May 2010

Last Friday Nyima Kunga, one of our Gesar Fund Board members travelled from Holland to Xining in order to investigate how we can help best the victims of the earthquake in the time to come. After having met and discussed the situation with Khenpo Tsering of the Könchok Foundation in Xining Nyima got right to work; thanks to the gifts to the Gesar Fund he bought another 7000 pounds of tsampa (see picture) and loaded it with help of our Gesar Fund volunteers on the truck that drove the food today to the town of Chenduo, the home base of the Gesar Fund. There this will be packed in smaller portions of 10 pounds and then, as we did before, brought to the city of Yushu, where it will be distributed to those most in need.

Also we will explore if we can find millers and bakers in Yushu who own barley mills but cannot operate them there and who therefore might be willing to move to Chenduo where they could have a temporary house and where there is electricity to run their machines. That would improve our capacity to offer food, as supplying food is still one of the main priorities.

Also, as there are still people who do not even have a tent we are exploring to buy so called winter tents. They cost around 115 Euro. Two sample tents have been bought already.

We are also concerned about the mental state of many people; people who are traumatized and what we can do for them. We are thinking of developing crisis teams formed by medical doctors and Buddhist priests. It might sound strange but a small gesture to rouse people’s spirit consists of preparing parcels that contain a collection of things that will handed out by the Gesar Fund to mothers on, yes, upcoming mother’s day.

So please, stay with our efforts to alleviate the suffering in the earthquake area of Yushu by sending your donations to

Gesar Fund

Account number 4391534

Haarlem, The Netherrlands

IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534

BIC: INGBNL2A

 

The 12th Trungpa Rinpoche.  Aten Rinpoche and monks from Surmang praying for the dead in Jyekundo.

27 April 2010


Konchok Foundation
Earthquake Relief Update Report
From Lyndon Comstock

Khenpo has continued to let us know daily about the ongoing efforts by the Surmang team to support those affected by the earthquake.  Aten Rinpoche, along with several monks, remains in Jyekundo.  Trungpa XII Rinpoche and others of the monks are at Surmang, continuing with pujas.  

This report covers the period April 24-27.

Overview.  The situation in Jyekundo is rapidly evolving beyond the emergency relief needed in the immediate wake of the disastrous earthquake.  A more long-term set of issues will soon emerge as to how the people of Jyekundo, and of the surrounding region, will cope during the rebuilding period, which will last for years.

    The impact of the earthquake on the region could scarcely be overstated.  In addition to the many thousands of people killed or injured, there are on the order of 125,000–150,000 people who lost their homes.  Most of these people will be without a permanent home for some years as rebuilding takes place.  That difficult challenge will be exacerbated by the cold climate.  

    The government has not yet announced details of the rebuilding plans, or for the resettlement of the population during rebuilding.

    Reliable reports indicate that the entire population of Jyekundo will be evacuated from the city before the end of May.  About 100,000 people lived in Jyekundo at the time of the earthquake. It is likely that the government will raze to the ground most of those buildings that are still standing in the city prior to the start of rebuilding.

    Khenpo gave a very rough estimate that perhaps 10% of the population of Jyekundo also have a home in Xining.  Possibly another 20% have another home in some place like Surmang.  That would leave 60%-70% with nowhere else to go.  

    Jyekundo will largely be out of commission as a city for the next few years.  The impact on the region will be profound: there are villages and some small towns, but no other cities for very long distances in any direction.  The devastation of a number of villages in the Jyekundo area also represents great loss and hardship.

    For the first ten days after the April 14 earthquake, the Surmang team worked as hard as they possibly could to provide emergency assistance to hundreds of families in Jyekundo.  Aten Rinpoche and the Surmang Khenpo have continued since then to meet with families, but on a less intensive basis then in the period right after the earthquake.   In the last several days they have met with, and provided support to, several dozen families connected to Surmang whom they were unable to track down in the initial confusion after the earthquake.

    The Surmang leadership does intend to continue providing ongoing assistance to those who were affected by the earthquake, particularly those families that they personally know.  They are now considering how they can best do that as the situation evolves.  We at the Konchok Foundation will also be consulting with our disaster relief advisor for advice as to how we can be supportive in the next phase.

    Both the Surmang Khenpo and team members at Konchok Foundation have commented in the past several days that the effects of the earthquake make opening the Surmang shedra more important than ever.  We will have to more to say about that topic in the coming weeks.

    A very severe and unusual dust storm was taking place in Jyekundo when I spoke with Khenpo on the 25th.  Other than a dust storm that also took place just before the earthquake, no one can recall a severe dust storm of this type.   The dust storm shut down the airport.  There has also been heavy snow between Xining and Jyekundo, interfering with truck traffic.  Nonetheless, the situation with relief supplies has eased compared to the initial period after the earthquake.  Some commercial activity is starting to take place, outdoors or in tents.  Some of the schools have re-opened in tents, although, tragically, at least two hundred schoolchildren, and probably more, were killed.

Resettlement in temporary housing.   Reports (not official announcements) indicate that the population of Jyekundo will be given the choice between finding another place to live on their own or moving into temporary refugee housing in one of three locations near Jyekundo.  One of these locations is Tashiko, adjacent to the horse festival grounds just west of Jyekundo.  Another is the Batang valley south of the city, along the road to Surmang.  The airport and also Benchen monastery are located in this valley.  The third location is Xinzhai, a couple of miles east of Jyekundo, where the famous Gyana mani is located.  (Gyana mani is the largest collection of mani stones in Tibet, containing many thousands.  Its location is thought to pertain to Jyekundo’s historically important role along the caravan route from Xining to Lhasa.)

    Those families that choose to find alternate housing on their own will presumably do so because they have another house elsewhere.

    Khenpo said that there are large numbers of temporary dwellings that are rapidly being erected in all three of the resettlement locations.

Details of temporary housing.  Khenpo provided the following description of the temporary houses.  These are one story, flat roof structures comprised of panels that have a sheet metal exterior and interior, with foam insulation between the two layers of sheet metal.  There are windows in addition to a door.  There appear to be two different sizes, one of about 150 sq.ft. interior space and one of about 250 sq.ft.  Khenpo has not yet been inside one and doesn’t know if it has a floor.  Presumably it is a single room.  

    A coal stove will be provided for cooking and heating.  Khenpo guesses that some type of electrical arrangement will be made, similar to running an extension cord into the house.  There will be no running water.  There are streams in the three resettlement areas where water can be obtained for washing.  Drinking water will probably be delivered in tanker trucks.

    These same types of structures are being erected along the main road in Jyekundo to serve as government offices.

    Those who were living in a village in the earthquake zone, rather than in Jyekundo, are not so likely to be relocated.  They will probably live in a tent or temporary structure near their previous house. 

Rebuilding.  The government is now sending canvassers to every family in Jyekundo to gather information on several issues.  Of particular note, the government is asking families whether they would prefer to have the government build them a new home, or whether they would prefer to build a new home of their own design, with the government giving them money to do so.

 Khenpo is sure that the majority of people in Jyekundo would prefer to build a new home themselves.  He said that of especially great concern to many people is that they be allowed to have their own house with a small yard as they do now, rather than being required to live in an apartment building.  They would also like to have a Tibetan-style design of their house.  Of course, there is no firm indication yet as to whether the residents, who are 98% Tibetans, will be allowed that kind of choice but it is significant  that this question is being asked. 

Khenpo is certain that, if the government does allow the residents to have a significant choice in the rebuilding of their homes, that there will be many rules governing it, and earthquake safety will be high on the list.

Relatives.  On a more personal note, I asked Khenpo to let us know whom he had lost from his own extended family.  He said that he has a cousin in Jyekundo who survived herself, but her husband, their three children, and a visiting guest were all killed when their house collapsed.  He also has two other, more distant relatives, who were killed.  I expressed condolences on behalf of the Shambhala sangha.

    I asked him for clarification as to the relatives of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whom he had previously mentioned were living in Jyekundo.  A man named Chaybup (may not be the proper spelling), who is related to the Vidyadhara’s father, lives in Jyekundo with his family.  Also, a niece of the Vidyadhara, who is also a sister of Karma Senge Rinpoche, lives in Jyekundo with her family.  In both cases, the families are alive; no one was injured, but their houses were ruined. 

April 25 Gesar Fund memo  

(written as an addition to below report sent on April 24)

Nunc bibendum quam

What we plan to do in the near future: Now, after these first 10 days our Gesar team as well as the Könchok Foundation are beginning to think along more long term lines. So the plan Gesar is  developing is:


1) to provide families that are in need with 10 pounds of tsampa on a regular basis.


2) The truck we are using now we will use again and possibly for many months to come to collect more of the items mentioned above in Xining and elsewhere.


3) Also we will start finding and giving money (100 Yuan, 11 Euro) to families in dire poverty and who have family members in their old age. And to do this possibly for quite some time.


4) We will investigate about the need of coal as a means to cook and keep warm.


5) We are planning on contacting elderly experienced people in Yushu in order to create a good information network that can advise us about needs.


6) Lastly, because of our geographical position and our own medical car we are in a position to investigate how the situation is in the little extremely remote villages around Yushu. They are also hit hard by the
earthquake.


7) We will keep our donors up to date about how and where we spend the money
that they are sending us so generously!

So we will spend the money that we fundraised slowly, spreading it our over a longer period of time.

Best,
Han  

Update Gesar Fund 24 April 2010

Thanks to your generosity we have been able to collect

€ 30,000 since our request for help after the earth quake. In this update we will inform you about our actions since then.

We feel quite lucky that we can work and co-operate with local people and with Könchok Foundation. This enables us to get direct information about the situation in the area.

At the moment we are focusing on short term relief, i.e. the provision of medical assistance, food, clothes and blankets. At the same time we need to do long term planning together with people in the area and in close co-operation with Könchok Foundation. The earth quake has devastated not only the city of Yushu we hear about on TV, but also remote small villages, where people also need help for a longer period of time.

At the moment it is still very cold. Heavy snow storms recently blocked the roads and it was quite difficult for trucks to reach their destination. Our ambulance with X-Ray facilities needed to stay close to the hospital in Chenduo, due to the weather. It has been very useful checking on broken bones and will keep doing so.

We also hired a truck for the transportation of goods. We bought nourishing foods and a barley grinder to make tsampa. We bought blankets and underwear for people in order to stay warm. So far we distributed:

200 heavy quality woolen blankets

 5000  kilo ground barley,

 1500 tsampa bags,

 500 pound butter,

 400 pieces of underwear and socks for adults,

 200 pieces of underwear and socks for children,

 60 boxes of dried noodles of nutritious quality,

 some boxes with 20 pounds of margarine and with dried cheese.

So far we spent € 6000.

 For the weeks to come we will keep buying and distributing more good quality food and clothes. Our plans for the future will focus on what we can do for vulnerable people, poor people, children and the elderly. Also a plan for remote villages, suffering from the earth quake will be included.

Your generosity will be greatly appreciated.

Ineke de Wit,  Gesar Fund ING bank # 4391534

 Haarlem

 IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534

 BIC: INGBNL2A

 

Tibetan monks provide food and water to quake victims in Jyekundo, courtesy of the Guardian

Tibetan monks provide food and water to quake victims in Jyekundo, courtesy of the Guardian

Konchok Foundation
Jyekundo Earthquake Relief Update
From Lyndon Comstock
23 April 2010


This is a composite report of conversations over the past three days, April 21-23.
 
    Surmang  Khenpo 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.

    I told him that 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.


   He said that the situation 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.

    Khenpo 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.

    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 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 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.   


   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.


    Khenpo 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.

 

 

APRIL 20:  THE YUSHU EARTHQUAKE. UPDATE FROM GESAR FUND

Thanks to the generosity of our Shambhala Sangha and others we were able to send yesterday the first 10.000 Euro to our bank account in Xining. That enabled our Gesar team that is in Xining to buy now barley, butter and dried cheese. The barley mill we bought already. Food and warm clothes are still the first priority. We also found a way to bulk buy cheap cotton underwear in all sizes. We are buying sanitary towels and also face balm that protects both against cold and against sunshine at these high altitude when being outside. Tomorrow a big truck coming from the town where the Gesar Fund has its basis will pick up what we bought and bring it to the Gesar Fund office. From there it will be distributed to Yushu and to neighbouring villages that are hit by the earthquake.

Snow storms are presently raging and the roads to Yushu are so bad, due to this weather, that cars and trucks bringing relief to Yushu have great difficulty getting there. Also the Gesar ambulance can not drive around and is back in Chenduo. There it is used to tests people with broken limbs who are brought from Yushu to the Chenduo hospital and to local people who are hosting them.

We also get messages that the roads around Yushu are blocked by the government for trucks that come from Xining to Yushu. Help from local areas near Yushu are not hindered by this measure. Because we are working from Chenduo which is in the local area our projects are not hampered by this.

Please stay with us with your generosity and help by sending your gift to Gesar Fund

Bank account # 4391534

Haarlem, the Netherlands.

IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534

BIC: INGBNL2A

Ceremonies for the earthquake victims in Jyekundo, courtesy of Alertnet

Ceremonies for the earthquake victims in Jyekundo, courtesy of Alertnet


Konchok Foundation
Jyekundo Earthquake Relief Update
From Lyndon Comstock
19 April 2010

(With additional reporting from the Gesar Fund, below)
 
The Surmang Khenpo reported that there are now five or six thousand monks in Jyekundo helping with the relief efforts.  Although most of them have been involved in digging for survivors or the bodies of the dead until now, or in distributing food, the digging is tapering off.  Very few survivors are being found now and most of the remaining dead are too deeply buried under rubble to be dug out by hand. 

    There were four fairly strong earthquake aftershocks yesterday. 

    Pujas for the dead are now being done in several places in Jyekundo where there are large clear areas.  There are large numbers of monks participating in these and they have helped to create an appropriate environment by lighting large numbers of butter lamps.
 
    Aten Rinpoche and Khenpo are focused on trying to help the families in Jyekundo who are in the most dire straits.  They have already given support to two hundred families connected with Surmang and, in the last several days, an additional one hundred to two hundred families.

    The Surmang leadership has now come up with a new method of locating the families who most need help.  The Surmang team has friends in Jyekundo who are from other rural areas in the general vicinity of Jyekundo, comparable to Surmang.  Jyekundo residents who are from these rural areas are usually the poorest people to begin with, many of them having recently been nomads.  Khenpo and Aten Rinpoche’s friends will identify the families with the greatest needs and arrange for them to meet with the Surmang group and receive support.  People from the rural areas of Arshu, Vhidrak, and Bojam (this may not be the official spelling) will be helped first, starting today.

    More than a thousand monks have come into Jyekundo from Serta monastery alone.  Serta, in Golok, has been the largest monastery in Tibet in recent years.  The Surmang Dutsi Til leadership has close ties to Serta and knows many of the teachers and monks there.  Trungpa XII Rinpoche has been studying there in recent years.  The Surmang Khenpo studied there for years under His Eminence Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche and received his Khenpo degree there.  The Serta leadership has also decided that providing direct financial assistance to families in Jyekundo is an excellent plan.  For the past two days a team of Serta monks have been distributing 400 yuan ($50 or so US equivalent) to every family in Jyekundo.  
 
    The overall relief situation in Jyekundo is mixed.  Substantial amounts of food and bottled water arrived into the city yesterday but the distribution of it was very uneven, with some families receiving a lot and some very little.  There has not been much sign of clothing distribution but many families are digging in the ruins of their houses to see what they can salvage and quite a number have recovered some clothing.  However, there are still many people who need coats.

    I was able to report to Khenpo that there was a large turnout in Boulder of both Shambhala sangha and the local Tibetan community to practice for the earthquake victims, receive update reports, and donate for earthquake relief.  He was very pleased to hear this.

    
19 APRIL UPDATE FROM THE GESAR FUND 

   We are very pleased to inform you about our first results. In Holland we collected 8,000 euro in the last week. Fundraising in Dechen Chöling amounts to 1,500 euro. Money keeps coming in. Our Shambhala Mandala worldwide is clearly motivated to help the 70,000 people in the earthquake area of Yushu. 
        
    The money is being used for food and medical assistance. More money is needed in order to support the people in this area where we provide immediate relief. 

     The Gesar Fund has in this area an ambulance, which is used without break for transportation of the injured. Its X-ray machine is used for diagnosing broken limbs. 
     
    The people in this area suffer from a lack of water, food and warm cloths. We just bought a big barley mill and on a large scale barley, butter and cheese. In the hometown of the Gesar Fund near Yushu we established a team of volunteers who prepare the tsampa. We heard that villages in the neighborhood of Yushu have little or no help, so we also focus on them. The distribution of food needs to be done in the presence of elderly monks. That provides some protection against people fighting for food, which has happened. We really want to try to reach also the most vulnerable and weakened people. At the moment I am writing this there is a snowstorm going on. The transportation of food and clothes has lots of difficulty and is very slow. Let us pray this will soon improve! 
 
    The Gesar Fund is also requesting the monks in Yushu to help mentally traumatized people or those in shock with chants of purification. 
  
    Thank you for your gifts, prayers and concern. 
  
    On behalf of Gesar Fund, 
 
    Ineke de Wit 

18 April 2010

Aten Rinpoche and the Surmang Khenpo have decided to broaden their support efforts in Jyekundo beyond the two hundred families that have connections to Surmang.  Friends and relatives have been telling them about families in Jyekundo who are in especially bad shape.  Therefore, in the same way that they did with the Surmang families, they are traveling about the city to check in on these families and give them advice, prayers, and support, including small amounts of emergency financial aid.  They are also being directly approached by people who desperately need help.   

    On behalf of the Konchok Foundation, I told Khenpo that this seems like a very good activity for them to be doing and we support and appreciate their efforts to help the people of Jyekundo.  I also told him that many people from the Shambhala sangha have emailed me to let me know how much they appreciate the efforts that he and the other teachers and monks from Surmang are making to help those in need.
   
    Khenpo had previously requested that the sangha in the West do practices for those who died or are suffering from the effects of the earthquake.  I told him that we would like him and the other people there to know that there was a major event at Boulder Shambhala Center today (Sunday) to talk about the earthquake and do practices for the earthquake victims, and to raise funds for earthquake relief.  I also told him about the following additional centers that I know did practices today for those suffering from the earthquake.  Ponlop Rinpoche’s students in Halifax; the Chicago Shambhala Center; the Montreal Shambhala Centre; the Silicon Valley Shambhala center near San Francisco.  Also Ellen Pearlman, whom he knows, and a group of her friends in Calgary, Canada.  And that there will be more in the coming days including Halifax Shambhala Centre and San Francisco Shambhala Center.  He responded that’s very good, very good, thank you.

April 17

This is untranslated 2 minutes of footage of both monks and soldiers digging for survivors at Jyekundo.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOEtK9H50go&feature=related  It was a related video to the footage of Thrangu monastery on youtube, a link which someone posted on sangha announce.

April 17: This informal translation of the speakers in the "monks and soldiers digging" video was just offered by Danica Chen Greenberg.  (for the most part), the comments seem to be in the spirit of what we were seeing on the screen.   provided by Lyndon comstock

Tibetan Monk Speaking:  We are coming from great distances to save the lives of our brothers and sisters.

Chinese man:  Brothers and sisters, your suffering is our suffering.  Your pain is our pain.  The family that you lost is our family.  We pay respect to the family that you lost.  We are in pain too.  Now is still the time to save lives.   We will join together to do good jobs for saving lives.  We want you to trust us that we will arrange the living conditions better here. 

Jyekundo in ruins after the earthquake.

4/18/10   from Lyndon Comstock's cell phone call to the Surmang Khenpo

Trungpa Rinpoche, Aten Rinpoche and Khenpo led prayer services for the dead in eight or nine locations yesterday in Jyekundo, with several hundred families participating altogether, not just those from Surmang.  The practices that they were doing included a Samantabhadra aspiration prayer, an Amitabha prayer, and others.  Wherever possible, families wanted them to practice directly with their dead family member and do phowa.

Additionally, the three of them met personally with dozens of families from the two hundred families that they know in Jyekundo who have a connection to Surmang.  At the same time, monks from Dutsi Til are continuing to help those families who are still missing people to dig for them, as is happening all over the city.  Although the chances of people still being alive in the rubble are now small, even so, people want to recover the bodies of their family members.

Families want a proper puja done for their dead.  This is not really possible amidst the rubble and chaos in Jyekundo so Trungpa Rinpoche, along with a number of monks, is going to return to Dutsi Til today to lead a three day Amitabha puja for the dead.  Khenpo will remain in Jyekundo doing relief work.

Families are trying to account for everyone, whether they are dead, injured, or ok.  Once they have accounted for everyone, and salvaged whatever they can from the wreckage of their house, those people who have an undamaged summer house in Surmang or somewhere else, are starting to leave Jyekundo.  Most of the families connected to Surmang do have a house in the Surmang area where they normally live in the summer.  Khenpo said that forty or fifty people are leaving for Surmang today.  Khenpo’s own elderly father has already left for his house in Surmang.

(Note: since these families were historically nomadic, traveling between winter and summer pastures for their animals, it’s consistent with their traditions to have more than one house.  It doesn’t mean that they are the least bit wealthy if they have a winter house in Jyekundo and a summer house in Surmang.  Each of the houses is usually very, very simple.)

Although the Chinese government has been bringing in more food, the food distribution is extremely erratic so far.  For whatever combination of reasons, the government brought in five large trucks of food yesterday and apparently all of it was given out in a single neighborhood and none to the other neighborhoods.  Meanwhile, the government yesterday set up roadblocks on all of the roads leading from other areas to Jyekundo and will only let authorized vehicles through.  Even NGO trucks with supplies will be turned back unless they have a specific set of permissions.  

Khenpo said that he and Trungpa Rinpoche and Aten Rinpoche have now distributed a little more than $10,000 U.S. equivalent, mostly in the form of small amounts of emergency aid to roughly two hundred families.

He says that people really need coats and gloves.  (By the way, I suspect, although I didn’t ask him, that even those with a house elsewhere may not have any extra clothing in that house.)  He said that, if someone doesn’t start distributing coats and gloves soon, he’s going to have go buy a lot of them to give out.

The Chinese President, Hu Jintao, was in Jyekundo while I was speaking with Khenpo.  Roadblocks were set up on every street in the city and all traffic halted while the visit is going on.

Lyndon

 

April 17, 2010

Khenpo is working side-by-side in Jyekundo with Trungpa Rinpoche, Aten Rinpoche and thirty monks from Surmang Dutsi Til.  The scope of their work has been rapidly expanding in the 72 hours since the earthquake and Khenpo was extremely busy when I called him tonight.

When I spoke to him yesterday, the Surmang monks were helping forty families from Surmang who are living in Jyekundo.  All of them had lost their houses and about fifteen people from those families had been killed.

Today, that has expanded to two hundred families, all of whom have some connection to Surmang.  At least fifty people, and probably more, from those two hundred families have been killed.  The monks from Surmang are helping to dig in the collapsed buildings to look for missing people from those families.

 There is not enough food available.  The government is distributing some food but hundreds of people have come up to the Surmang monks asking for help in getting food.  He has sent someone in a truck to Xining to buy food and bring it back.  Also, the families that he’s given emergency aid  have been sending people to towns where food can still be bought and are buying food and bringing it back.

For the families that they are helping, in addition to searching for missing people and helping them get food, they are arranging to get some of the tents that are being distributed and are saying prayers for the dead.  The latter is extremely important to the Tibetan people.

He said that there are about three thousand monks now in Jyekundo working to help people, in addition to the Chinese army and the NGOs, but still many, many people need more help.  He repeated that there were hundreds of people coming up to the people from Surmang asking for food.

I told him that there was a special service that is being held in Boulder on Sunday and that prayers will be said for all of the people who died in the earthquake.  He was very glad to hear that and said he was going to tell that to Trungpa Rinpoche and Aten Rinpoche and everyone else.

I told him that there is now at least $25,000 that has come in for earthquake aid at Konchok.  He was very happy to hear that.   I asked him how he wanted to spend that money.  He said there are thousands of people who need help in Jyekundo and that, once they have given some basic help to these two hundred families with connections to Surmang, they will start helping more families. 

If I could be permitted to make a comment here, it’s obvious that the focus of the Surmang leadership and monks at this early stage is just helping as many people as they can with their most basic needs.  Finding missing people.  Getting food.  Getting tents or some kind of shelter.  Prayers for the dead.  It’s also apparent to me that he’s not spending any money on anything that is being provided in sufficient quantities by the Chinese government or by NGOs.  A lot of tents have just come in to Jyekundo from the Chinese government and, as to tents, he’s focused on getting them to people, not on buying them. 

 I did ask Khenpo, if enough food becomes available to people from the government, what would be the next highest priority for spending money.  He said clothing.  Most people have lost almost all of their clothing and it’s still very cold at this time of year in Jyekundo.

I asked Khenpo to please tell Trungpa Rinpoche and Aten Rinpoche, who were sitting in the car with him when I called, that all of the Shambhala community in the West is very concerned for those who have been affected by this earthquake, that we want people there to know of our compassion and sorrow for those who died, and that we are very moved that our dharma brothers from Surmang are working so hard to help those in need. 

Lyndon

IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM GESAR FUND, also helping "on the ground"  with the earthqyuake efforts

4/15/10  Dear members and friends of Shambhala,

As you have probably heard on the News, the province of Qinghai in China is suffering from an earthquake. In this region, where many Tibetans live, is close to Surmang and the Monasteries where Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was an abbot. At the moment Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the siritual leader of these Monasteries.

The city of Jekundo (yushu county) near Surmang, is almost totally destroyed.

The earthquake (7.1 on the Richter Scale) has caused a great deal of dammage and right now it is clear that at least 800 people were killed. There are also over 10,000 people wounded. There is a small hospital in Yushu that is doing whatever is possible but unfortunately there is no electricity. Last year Gesar Foundation bought an ambulance bus to help detect TBC in the Nomad area. The ambulance is now being used to help people in the damaged areas. It has the necessary equipment that runs on electricity that is provided for by the bus itself. The people who are operating the bus cooperate with the local hospital in the city of Cindu that is located in the Jekundo area and the epicenter of the earth quake. In order to keep doing this Gesar Foundation needs extra funding, not only for buyng the necessary gas, but also for an extra supply of medicines.

Please send your donations (Tax deductible in the Netherlands) to:

Gesar Fund. Please mention ‘Earth quake’.

ING bank # 4391534

Stichting Gesar Fund

Mollenakker 2, 3994 GC Houten

IBAN: NL79INGB0004391534

BIC: INGBNL2A

On behalf of Gesar Fund

Han de Wit

Willem Kuijpers


Dr. Han F. de Wit
Hofdijck 13
2341 NA Oegstgeest
NEDERLAND 

The Gesar website is www.gesarfund.nl Unfortunately we do not have our English website ready yet...

 

4/16/10  Report from Lyndon comstock with the Surmang Khenpo 

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.

I did not have any word at all yet on how many earthquake relief donations had come in to Konchok Foundation when I spoke to him yesterday so all I could tell him is that it was at least a thousand dollars.  Based on that, he went around to the families from Surmang and gave them some emergency money to help get by. 

He was only able to give about 300-500 yuan per family (there are about 7 yuan to a dollar.)  There are about 40 families from Surmang in Jyekundo and about 15 or 16 people from those families were killed.  (It sounds like he gave out something closer to $2000, perhaps he was assuming that we would be able to come up with more money.)  I told him today that it has been at least $5,000 that has come in and he said that he would now be able to give those families a little more money.  He said that if we are able to send more than $5,000,*(see note below) he would also start giving emergency money to some of the other poorest people who live in Jyekundo. 

What he’s doing at this point is checking up on the families of the people from Surmang or other families that he knows, trying to see if they need help digging for people or finding people, making sure that they have food, making sure that they get a tent.  As of today, he will have enough people to help him because of the monks arriving.  Now what he needs are supplies of all kinds and also money to give to people.

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.

 

April 15, 2010 9 A.M.

Here is a first hand report from the Surmang Khenpo, who arrived safely to Jeykundo last evening (Mtn Time), managed to obtain a cell phone and called our Konchok Treasurer Lyndon Comstock, with some good news and some really sad news.

Here is Lyndon's report of their conversation:

The cell phone service is Jyekundo is intermittent, it cuts in and out.  He doesn’t have a car battery charger and doesn’t know how he’s going to recharge the phone.   The power is out in Jyekundo.

I was able to reach Khenpo tonight in Jyekundo by cell phone.  It’s been a very long 24 hours for him since he called me from Xining last night just after the earthquake had happened.  He was leaving immediately for Jyekundo at that time to help with the rescue efforts.

The road from Xining to Jyekundo is open.  There are some cracks in the road and rocks on the road but it is passable.  On the way down to Jyekundo, Khenpo passed at least a thousand cars or vehicles that were taking injured people up to hospitals in Xining.  There is not nearly enough hospital capacity in Jyekundo for all of the injured people.

Khenpo said that Jyekundo 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 one six or seven story building collapsed “like the World Trade Center.”  He went first to his own family’s house in Jyekundo to look for his family and dig them out if necessary.  Unlike most houses, his family’s house did not collapse.  It has a large crack in it, the back wall is tilting at an angle, and it will have to be rebuilt, but it did not fall down.  His father, sister, and brother are ok and were not injured.  Khenpo said that he has a number of other relatives in Jyekundo and he thinks that six or seven of them were killed.

He said that he and his family members have been spending all of their time helping other people dig in collapsed buildings, trying to find people who are still alive, but they haven’t found anyone alive.  He said that he has pulled out several people who were already dead.

There are now a large number of Chinese soldiers in Jyekundo who are helping to dig but not enough compared to how many collapsed buildings that there are, and the soldiers don’t have enough heavy equipment.

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.”  I said that the reports here are of ten thousand people injured and he said that it was at least that many and repeated that there isn’t enough space in the hospitals for all of them.  No one is staying inside any of the buildings that are still standing and everyone is living outside in tents or in whatever way that they can.  He’s sleeping in his car.

 

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.  Khenpo has not heard yet of any damage at Surmang Namgyaltse.  He has been told that the damage in the Nangchen heartland, centered around the town of Sharda, was not nearly as bad as around Jyekundo.

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.  Aten Rinpoche is alright, I believe he was at Surmang at the time of the earthquake but he has now come up to Jyekundo to help out.  One of Aten Rinpoche’s relatives is a khenpo at Thrangu monastery and was killed.

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.  Benchen monastery wasn’t damaged as badly even though it is very close to Thrangu monastery.  Domkhar monastery in Jyekundo was already in the process of being moved from its precarious hillside perch to a safer location in the valley and he think there wasn’t so much of a problem for them as a result.  The Sakya monastery on a hilltop in Jyekundo has major damage but the buildings did not collapse.

Thirty or forty families from the Surmang area now have winter houses in Jyekundo, which they were living in when the earthquake happened.  He knows all of these families and is trying to check up on them.  He thinks that all of them have lost their houses and probably ten to twenty people were killed from the Surmang families.

He asked me 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 were killed or injured.

Han de Wit, from the Gesar fund wrote the following on April 14: 

No doubt you heard about the earthquake in Yushu Prefecture. Surmang belongs to that prefecture as well and so does Cindu, the place where my son in law's family lives (in tents now because their house has become unsafe) and where the hospital is located that provides the doctors for the TBC project of our Gesar Fund.*  Our medical bus is currently being used to transport victims of the earthquake. Also we are thinking about buying medicines and bring that to the area. The Gesar Fund will available in whatever way we can help with overcoming this calamity.

APRIL 14, 2010

A major earthquake struck Jyekundo and the surrounding area of Tibet yesterday.  Jyekundo is the closest city to the Surmang Dutsi Til monastery.  The initial quake of 7.1 magnitude was followed by several aftershocks of magnitude 5 or more.   First reports indicate heavy damage and large numbers of people killed or injured.  Some reports indicate that as many as 90% of the houses in Jyekundo collapsed, with hundreds killed and thousands injured.  There also must be heavy casualties in the surrounding area.

The Surmang Khenpo called Konchok Foundation from Xining with the news, approximately an hour after the earthquake struck.  He had been there purchasing building materials for the Surmang shedra.  He said that there was massive damage from the quake and that he was leaving immediately for Jyekundo to help with rescue efforts.

Coordinates provided by the U.S. Geological Survey placed the epicenter approximately 30
miles northwest of Jyekundo (Yushu).  

There are no reports yet about the effect of the earthquake on Surmang Dutsi Til monastery.

A portion of Thrangu monastery, between Surmang Dutsi Til and Jyekudo, collapsed and a number of monks were killed there.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s brother, Damcho Tenphel Rinpoche, has lived in Jyekundo part of the time for the past several years.   It is not known if he was in Jyekundo at the time of the quake, however, he was not residing in the city a month ago.  

Lady Diana Mukpo and Dr. Mitchell Levy, two of the founders of the Konchok Foundation, said today: “We are deeply concerned for the people of this entire area, which includes the Surmang monasteries of which Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the supreme abbot. We have been working to support Surmang and its surrounding community for many years and we would like to do whatever we can to assist those affected by the earthquake.  If anyone is able to contribute to the disaster relief fund being sent up by the Konchok Foundation, which is able to channel money direct to the area through the Surmang monastery, please do so, and include the people of this desperately poor area in your prayers and practice.”

 

 


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