Winter 2016

Helping Earthquake Survivors

Professor returns home to Nepal in time to lend a hand

By Emma Johnson

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Mabi Singh, DI07, right, helps load supplies. Photo: Courtesy of Mabi Singh

Mabi Singh, DI07, was in his native Nepal, mourning the death of the aunt who had raised him, when a devastating earthquake struck the mountainous nation last April. The disaster and the resulting aftershocks, landslides and avalanches killed more than 8,800 people, injured more than 23,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands.

“The earthquake itself wasn’t that terrifying, as I was in a safe area, but the environment afterwards was terrible,” says Singh, an associate professor of diagnostic sciences at Tufts School of Dental Medicine. “Nobody could get in contact with anyone; you didn’t know what had happened to other people. Then, the aftershocks kept coming.”

Singh had been in the eastern outskirts of the capital Kathmandu, at the Pashupatinath Temple, a sacred Hindu temple. Hospitals in the surrounding areas were soon overwhelmed. Phone service was lost, and as the aftershocks hit, more and more damage was done to the area’s infrastructure. Singh said there was no electricity for three days after the quake. People spent nights in tents or simply outside, fearing they would be trapped by debris if they ventured inside their homes and an aftershock came.

Instead of returning to the U.S., Singh traveled to the Kathmandu office of the nonprofit Help Nepal Network—he cofounded the network’s U.S. chapter in 2005. The organization mobilized to provide support to other relief organizations and to deliver food and supplies. Singh brought rice and other nonperishable foods, water purification tablets, tents and plastic sheeting for shelter to remote areas.

Singh says he was grateful for the opportunity to serve. “I grew up in Nepal,” he says. “I was glad I was there during the earthquake, even more than for the death of my aunt, because I would have felt very helpless. Being able to be there and help was very satisfying.”

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