Nepali students at Claflin

Claflin University students, seated from left, Kumar Lama, Madan Godar and Jenish Koirala; standing, from left, Shree Kushwaha, Shankar Prajabati, Roshan Bhattarai and Prayas Timalsina share their concerns for family and friends following the devastating earthquake in Nepal. View video with this story at


Shankar Prajabati has been friends with Pooja Prajabati since kindergarten.

“I still can’t believe that she passed (away),” Shankar Prajabati said. “She was just my age, 22.”

“She went to medical school in Nepal. When I came to Claflin, she was one of my friends who came to the airport to drop me off,” he said.

Prajabati is one of a group of Claflin University students from Nepal who are dealing with the aftermath of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. They’re trying to catch up with family and friends 8,000 miles away as the death toll in Nepal continues to rise. It was last reported at 4,000 on Monday afternoon.

Roshan Bhattarai, a junior biochemistry major from Okhaldhunga, Nepal, said he was on the phone with his brother around 3 a.m. Saturday when his brother began to yell, “Earthquake! Earthquake!”

Bhattarai said his brother watched buildings collapse.

Their parents live in another part of Nepal and he was able to reach them on the phone a few hours later.

“My parents are living in a tent,” Bhattarai said.

He said his parents aren’t allowed to visit their home because it’s unstable right now.

In the meantime, they’re getting their basic needs met.

“For our family, they’re getting some food and water. There are so many people who are not even getting drinking water,” Bhattarai said. “People are suffering a lot.”

Another Claflin University student, Kumar Lama, is from Gorkha, the hardest hit region, which is located west of Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu.

Lama said he tried “like 10 times” to call his parents and after his attempts to reach them, one call was successful “but it was not a good network,” he said.

When he and his parents finally got to speak, they explained why they didn’t answer his phone calls: they were running away from their house.

“At least they were safe,” Lama said.

Madan Godar of Tanahun, Nepal, said he learned about the earthquake just moments after it happened because he was looking at his Facebook page and friends were posting about it.

Godar said on Monday that he hasn’t been able to get in contact with his friends in Nepal located near the earthquake site.

He’s worried about them.

Aside from worry, the Nepali students at Claflin said upon learning the news of the deadly earthquake, they immediately felt helpless.

Jenish Koirala of Kathmandu said although his hometown is far from Gorkha, he has a few relatives that are near there.

“They are safe. I’ve contacted them,” he said.

But there are others who he hasn’t been able to reach.

“I cannot contact my friends. I cannot contact my relatives. So it’s pretty difficult to know what they are doing,” Koirala said.

Police in Nepal have reported that more than 7,000 people are injured and tens of thousands are homeless as a result of the quake.

But for those who have access to computers or mobile devices, digital communications have kept families and friends in contact.

Prayas Timalsina of Kathmandu said Skype is linking him with his friends and family in Nepal.

Other social media applications on the Internet, such as Facebook, have served as dependable tools for keeping in touch when traditional methods – such as telephones – have limited or no service.

Shree Kushwaha of Birgunj, Nepal, said he’s been able to relay messages to his friends and family via Facebook.

But while they are away from home, they feel some sense of relief through their Claflin University family.

“Claflin University is doing their best for entire student body,” Koirala said.

And as Claflin students, they want to send funds directly to relief agencies. They’ve created an online account at

“We just want to get help to where it’s needed the most,” Koirala said.

A prayer service is scheduled at noon today at Claflin University's chapel for the country of Nepal.

* Contact the writer: or 803-533-5545 Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD


Crime Reporter

Martha Rose Brown covers crime and other topics. The South Carolina native has been a journalist for the past 15 years.

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